Life or Death – Holding Moments in our Senses

dying roseWe have been on high alert this week with my sweetheart’s Mom in hospital.  It’s been a roller coaster and a lot of travel and juggling of schedules but today was perhaps the toughest.

When the phone rings at 2:30 a.m. there is no doubt there is trouble.  That is, trouble beyond the groping for the phone in the dark when you are groggy and discombobulated.  Listening to a strange and distant voice explaining medical procedure while forcing weary eyes open into the darkness is strangely dreamlike.  Rolling back into bed, knowing you should get up and move toward clothes and car seems impossible and the chaffing of guilt mingles with the silky smooth beckoning of the soft pillow which is still warm from your leaving it only a few moments before.

As I slipped back into dreamland I remember thinking, “He will waken me if he decides we have to go tonight.  Otherwise we will go early in the morning.”

We did go early in the morning after a few phone calls and enough coffee to open our eyes for the journey.

I remember these journeys from years ago when my own mother was dying in a hospital.  Each trip down the road is one which is filled with fear and confusion.  There is a part of us, as children, that wants our parents to live forever.  There is another part, when seeing them suffer, that wishes they could slip away quietly in their sleep and that neither they nor us would have to endure the pain and passion of these last days.

We knew where we were going this time.  We’ve made the trip so many times these past few days that the road and the doors have become normal in our lives.  The hospital is no longer a maze.  We know which turn to take and we are even becoming acquainted with the nursing staff, nodding in recognition in hallways and elevators.

Our eyes are filled with strange sights though, on our first trip through the step down unit.  We walk as if we know where we are going, but in fact we are searching for a face which looks as if it might direct us to the right stall in this hallway of pain.

At last we find her.  The woman who only a few weeks ago seemed strong and able was almost lost in the sheets and pillows, plastic tubes and monitors.  The frail figure could not even open eyes to greet.  Breath was laboured and the numbers I understood well enough to tell me a story I didn’t not want to read.  The overwhelming odours of bodily fluids mixed with disinfectant hung in the air like smog on a windless day.

These are the days we dread though they are treasures because we see small victories and stretch toward any hope we can find.  Our appreciation for the little smile and the reaching of feeble fingers burns into our memories with searing heat because we are so dreadfully aware they could be the last.

We do not want to stay.  We do not want to leave.  We are afraid of another call.  We watch the chest rise and fall, fearing it may not rise again.

The crisis passes.  Procedures and doctors and teams are on hand, working around the clock to return life to the dying.  They borrow time at a high cost but they do it well with kindness and compassion.  They are discreet and consider carefully the dignity of the people they serve.  They speak softly to patients and families.  They make every movement count.

We are home again.  We wonder if the phone might ring again in the night or if the mending will continue and we will be able to celebrate one more special day, or share another family event together.

The days are shorter but they will be held more tightly and tenderly because of this day.


About Peggy Guiler

You just never know what show up on my blog. As the name implies it is about the stuff of life just like Spilt Milk. Everyday events spark thought and contemplation. Special events in the community, the country or the world may strike a cord and get me talking. Sometimes it's about people in my life or circumstances, sometimes about my garden, sometimes about a book or a political issue. Always it's about something I am passionate about. In my business, River of Hope Enterprises (, I work as an "Certified Coach" (International Coach Federation), a trainer, consultant and speaker. and as a spiritual director. I also drive a school bus to keep the wolf from the door while I build my business. I love the kids on the bus (most of the time). My family is grown and I have three grandkids who thrill my heart but I don't get to see any of them very often. Circumstances of life have made "family" difficult. My son died by suicide at age 16 in 2000 and the strain on our family relationships since has been huge. Mental health is a field where I worked for almost 22 years and where I still do some consulting and training. That combined with my own battle with depression and my son's death weave together to form some of my greatest soap box items: suicide intervention, suicide bereavement and peer support in mental health are right on the top of my list. Social justice is an underlying passion. Keeping the wolf from the door as a single parent was full-time work and my career path as a journalists was augmented with cleaning contracts, cooking, retail clerk, and bartending. I have known hard work and am grateful for the experience and perspective it has given me. A firmly grounded faith and a passion for learning has now taken me toward a new field as a Spiritual Director and I am soon adding to that a license to marry people. As I move toward retirement I am very aware that I have to keep working so I chose to do things which will meet my modest financial needs and also my love of supporting people in their life journey. Woven into all of this is my love of writing. Trained as a Journalist, and having worked in the field as a freelance news writer for many years, I have a great love for writing. This blog is a new beginning for me. As I hone my skills and begin to form a daily discipline of writing I hope it will lead to more writing in the future.
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2 Responses to Life or Death – Holding Moments in our Senses

  1. Cari Fallis says:

    Strange how the saddest moments can give us such inspiration. This is a strong piece, Peggy. Please extend my thoughts to Brian, and know that I’m thinking of you both at this difficult time. xo Cricket

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