Tag Archives: death of a loved one
This blog post is part 4 of a 4 part series. I thought this series may be helpful to anyone who is facing the death of a loved one or knows anyone that has passed away. At times you may find it difficult to read, yet in the end I hope you can see the inspiration and gratitude I found in this 24 hour period.
Next, I had to go tell the children and Ian’s mother. Pierre prepared some eggs and then we drove over to Marian’s where Rob had spent the night. When we arrive, Rob and Barb were on a walk so we told Marian. She of course took the news very hard. Once Rob came in I took him and sat him on my lap and said, “Robbie, I’m so sorry but Daddy died last night.” Robbie wailed, “But I wanted to sleep with him one more night!” He was crushed, as I was for having to tell him. He cried, and cried. It was just heart breaking.
Marc and I then drove over to pick up Jenna from her sleep over. The night before, she had been invited at the last minute to spend the night at her friend, Lizzy’s. I walked in and took her to the side and said, “I’m so sorry honey, but Daddy died this morning at 1 am.” Jenna hardly blinked an eye and said, “Oh that’s sad, can I go tell my friends?” I said yes, so she trotted down to the basement and after gathering her things together, she casually said, “My Dad died this morning.” The three other girls gasped and were shocked and stunned. They all ran and gave her a hug. We left the house and stopped at Duncan Donuts.
Later that day Marc, Pierre and I took the kids to Kane Funeral Home. After arriving, the funeral director explained to the kids how Daddy would look. He would be laying on a hospital gurney with a sheet over him, up to his chin. He explained that Daddy was gone to heaven and this was just his body. The kids were scared and tentative. Jenna didn’t want to go first. So Rob and I went in and Rob just walked right up to Ian and threw his arm over his chest. Then he tip toed up and gave him a kiss on the cheek and then another hug. He was crying.
Jenna was standing at the door crying, so I went back and slowly walked forward with her. She was very scared and terrified. She wanted to go up to Ian, but didn’t. I asked if she wanted me to give Daddy a hug and kiss and she said yes. So I did. His body was as stiff as a board and when I kissed him his skin was cold and firm, like kissing a cold watermelon. I stepped back and told Jenna to feel the table and that Daddy felt just like that. It was a shell and had gone hard. She very reluctantly stepped forward and gave Daddy a big hug. She stayed for several seconds and just sobbed. It was the first time she had cried since hearing the news of her father’s death. She stepped back with me and I asked if she was ready to go, and she said yes. I told her we could stay as long as she wanted. She was ready to go. We turned to leave and she ran back and gave Ian one last hug. Then Rob went back and gave one more hug and we walked out.
The kids were crying very hard and I was trying to comfort them as best as possible. Marc and Pierre were very comforting and soothing to the kids as well. Danny, the funeral director, had things I need to sign. I said than you so much for making Ian look so good. He looked beautiful. Danny turned and said, “Your welcome Mrs. Sharpe, but you are the hero here. The way you helped your children was incredible. This will be a moment they will never forget. I’ve seen many viewings and you were a rock.” I felt surprised by this reaction as I did just what I felt I should have done, nothing more and certainly nothing less.
I had never been so close to death before. When I was eleven, while I was visiting my dad’s parents my mother’s father died. I didn’t attend the service and I had no concept of death. And now here I am age 37, with two children 8 and 10 and my own husband died in my bed early this morning. And yet, the biggest thing I feel is relief. Seven years of endurance ended on 2/22/04, when Ian was 44 years old.
I think Ian chose his time. The kids were sleeping away from the house that evening; I was in another bedroom, dreaming of Heaven. He was in his bedroom, his best friend, Pierre, was sitting at his side listening to his belabored breathing. Ian felt peace. He felt safe, he felt love, he felt no guilt, he let go. He didn’t want to go, he fought and he fought and he fought, but he knew there was no other way and he let go – it was the perfect way in the perfect place and in the perfect situation. It could not have been planned better. It was almost as if for the last 24 hours we had been set up in a magical chess game, and with each move we made we were one step closer to the ultimate check mate.
This blog post is part 3 of a 4 part series. I thought this series may be helpful to anyone who is facing the death of a loved one or knows anyone that has passed away. At times you may find it difficult to read, yet in the end I hope you can see the inspiration and gratitude I found in this 24 hour period.
I was jolted awake. I sat up and found myself tangled in the gauzy canopy material. I was over my face and wrapped around one of my arms. Come in, come in. Both Marc and Pierre were there, almost falling into the room. I had been asleep for almost 3 hours, it was 1:15am. It was dark and I was disoriented waking up in my daughter’s room. I untangled myself and felt a sense of calm and peace. I wasn’t sure how I was going to react when Ian died, but I sure didn’t think it would be with a calm and peaceful feeling – but how could I not after having just left the place that Ian was about the enter.
I pushed past Marc and Pierre and ran down the hallway to my room. The bedside lamp was the only light in the room. I ran up next to Ian, the oxygen still pushing clean fresh air into Ian’s lifeless lungs. I looked into Ian’s face- he wasn’t there-he was lifeless-he was a shell of himself. It was the same wan sunken checked face I had just hours ago kissed on the forehead goodnight and yet the person I had kissed was no longer there. I felt a flood of mixed emotions. First and foremost was what we do next, what abut the kids, its over, what abut his mother-so many thoughts were racing through my head. I asked what had happened and Pierre said that he had been listening to the monitor we had set up and Ian’s breathing had become more and more shallow and longer apart. He decided to go upstairs to our room and sit with Ian as he wasn’t sure what was happening. When he came upstairs he sat next to Ian in the dining room chair which had been brought upstairs sometime earlier on Saturday. He said his breaths were getting farther apart and then they just stopped. Pierre ran down to get marc and he came up to see and then they debated as to whether to wake me up! I guess Marc didn’t want to bother me.
Earlier that evening, I had called my friend Lisa whose husband was also battling cancer. She ironically had given me the information about what to do if a person dies at home. If I hadn’t had talked to her, I would not have had a clue as to what to do. “You first have to call the hospice nurse so they can pronounce the person dead. Then call the funeral director so the body can be taken. It’s best to call the two people at the same time, so that once the nurse is done, then the body can be whisked off as soon as possible.” I told marc and Pierre that we needed to go make those calls, but first could someone please get Ian’s wedding ring off his finger, as I didn’t want them taking his body with it on. Marc stepped up to Ian’s side of the bed and gently lifted Ian’s arm and grasped the ring and slide it off his finger. Marc handed me the ring and I slipped it into my pocket.
We went downstairs to the kitchen and called the hospice nurse. It would take her a couple of hours to get there. While we sat waiting for the nurse I was compelled to go up alone and spend some time with Ian. The oxygen was still going, so when I got to the room I took the plastic tubing out of Ian’s nostrils and gently took the tubing out from behind his ears. I then turned off the oxygen machine which immediately deadened the room. The calm I felt was overwhelming. I felt serene and grateful that he end had come quickly, swiftly. I went to turn off the electric blanket as Ian had been bone chillingly cold since returning from Seattle. I reached for the control panel and on the display was the letter “E.” I had never seen the letter “E” before and was very struck by it. The usual settings were 1 through 9 and H for high. After feeling I had done what I needed to do I went downstairs and sat at the counter with Pierre. I told Pierre about the “E” on the display of the electric blanket. Without missing a beat Pierre said, “Eternity.” I gasped and pulled the new wedding band from my pocket. Pierre didn’t know anything about the Valentine’s gift that Ian had receive a week ago. Inside the band I had engraved, “Eternally Yours.” Pierre and I looked at each other and smiled. Ian had told me that someway, somehow he was going to send me a sign to let me know that he was ok, and I figured this was it.
I was very concerned that the kid’s weren’t going to be able to say goodbye to their dad. I was reluctant to call the funeral home, as I didn’t want Ian to be gone before the kids got home. I called the funeral home and told them what had happened but that I wasn’t ready for them to come and take his body. They agreed, but said they would be there if I wanted to call back. The nurse came downstairs after pronouncing Ian dead and advised that I call the funeral home back and have them take the body as soon as possible. I was so confused; I didn’t know what to do. I did the first thing that came to mind, and that was to call my friend Susie and ask her what to do. She was up skiing in Vermont, but had given me her phone number and told me to call if I needed anything. It must have been 2 or 3 am, but she was so supportive and helpful. She told me to call the funeral director and have them come get the body as it might be more upsetting to the kids to come home and see their dad dead in his bed. Also his body would start to deteriorate which would not be a good thing for the children to experience – or for me for that matter. I hung up the phone and called Daniel Jowdy, the Kane funeral home director. He was at the house within about an hour. When he showed up he was wearing the best cut black suit I had ever seen on a man and a gorgeous black wool overcoat, behind him stood two men who were faceless. He spoke in a soothing yet respectful tone. However he reminded me of the Angel of Death, almost too well put together and with the two men standing behind him it was eerie.
I told Daniel my dilemma about the kids being away for the night and that I was afraid that they would be upset if he were gone and they didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. He very calmly said, “We can not deny the children the privilege of saying goodbye to their father, I will make arrangements for an opportunity to view Ian’s body on Sunday.” I felt so relieved! I then walked Daniel and his helpers up to my bedroom. I went and sat on the couch in the family room – I didn’t want to see them take Ian out on the stretcher.
After the funeral people had been here and taken Ian’s body, Marc, Pierre and I all went back to bed; it was around 4:30am. When I went back up to my room, the funeral people had made my bed and even folded Ian’s CAL blanket so that he insignia was right in the middle on top of the bed. It felt very respectful. I slept for about 2 hours and then woke up and started writing in my journal. Around 7 I took a shower. While I was drying my hair I had the hot air flowing on my face and I closed my eyes and I could hear Ian whisper from behind my left ear, “It is so great here. I love you, but it is so awesome here!” This took my breath away! I felt again so comforted. I felt so at peace! I know that Ian is in a better place. I wasn’t sad for Ian passing, but I was sad for me and the kids.
This blog post is part 2 of a 4 part series. I thought this series may be helpful to anyone who is facing the death of a loved one or knows anyone that has passed away. At times you may find it difficult to read, yet in the end I hope you can see the inspiration and gratitude I found in this 24 hour period.
After kissing Ian goodnight and ensuring he was comfortable and safe I gave instructions to Marc, Ian’s brother, and Pierre, Ian’s best friend, as to what and how to administer any medications Ian might need. They were going to take the night shift as I was exhausted. He had had his first dose of morphine around 8pm which is why I think he was sleeping so peacefully. I was relieved to have Marc and Pierre there as it was the first time since our family had returned from Seattle that I wasn’t alone with Ian. After having the hospice nurse tell us, earlier that evening, that it could be weeks if not months before Ian would die, I was ready to sleep. I hadn’t slept in almost 48 hours.
I walked down to my daughter’s room and wrote in my journal about everything I could remember from the day. I felt things were happening which were bigger than me and I wanted to remember every detail. I sat on my daughter’s twin bed with the blue satin comforter and white fake fur blanket which we had bought in Seattle at the kids Pottery Barn and shipped home.
I dropped my journal to the floor and laid back and looked up into the canopy circle above the bed which flowed down with white gauzy material accented with pink and blue streamers. The puppy and kittens on the chair rail wallpaper boarder played and cuddled. The blue lattice wall paper above and the pastel pink, blue, yellow and green wavy stripped wall paper below made me feel safe and loved. The mass of stuffed animals I pushed to the floor plopped down and settled on the floor along side the bed. I found Jenna’s loved to death “Yellow” blanket as she called it under her pillow. It was the blanket that Jenna first laid down on when she was brought home from the hospital after her life threatening surgery at birth. You could hardly call this piece of shredded material a blanket, but the warmth, safety and security that it gave Jenna was beyond what a full sized blanket could provide. I nuzzled “Yellow” and held it tight as I prayed to God and my angels. I prayed that when the time was right that they would take Ian quickly and painlessly. I had heard too many horror stories about people dying while we were in Seattle. I couldn’t bear that happening to Ian. I was confused as to how long this was going to go on as the doctor had said one thing and the hospice nurse another. I thought back to the moment that I pulled the kids into Rob’s room that day and had told them I had bad news – that, “Daddy was going to die.” How Rob screamed – how Jenna ran to Daddy – how miraculously Daddy was coherent and available – how it went better than I could have planned for it.
I drifted off to sleep while praying and running through my thoughts on the day. I awoke in a most breathtaking place. I was surrounded by gleaming white and gold open aired buildings. A brilliant blue sky with glorious white shimmering clouds floating through the sky. People, spirits, hurriedly, scurrying from one place to another preparing a huge feast, banquet, party. It was full of excitement and decorations and so many souls. My angels said, “Lisa, we are preparing for the arrival of the Great Ian Sharpe. We have been preparing a long time and the time is near for his brilliant soul to come and join us!” I had such a sense of euphoria and anticipation. As I continued to observe an announcement was being repeated by a tall loving soul, with two spirits following behind him gonging the most beautiful bell tones, “The Grand Mr. Ian Sharpe is about to arrive!” The floors of marble, gleaming clean and love surrounding everything. The sense of anticipation was palpable. The place I was in was so much more than I could ever describe because it was like nothing here on earth. It had to be Heaven. I was caught up in the moment watching all that was happening when trumpets sounded and then…knock, knock, knock – “Lisa, Lisa wake up. We think Ian just passed away!”
This blog post is part 1 of a 4 part series. I thought this series may be helpful to anyone who is facing the death of a loved one or knows anyone that has passed away. At times you may find it difficult to read, yet in the end I hope you can see the inspiration and gratitude I found in this 24 hour period.
It was about 10pm, I had gone upstairs to get ready for bed. Ian was sleeping peacefully as I walked by the bed to go to the bathroom. I turned the water on and let it run to get hot. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought I got through another day. I wasn’t surprised by what I saw, dark circles under my eyes, gaunt cheeks, pasty white skin and haunted eyes. I gazed at the reflection and noticed that the waist of my pants was bunched up where the leather belt had drawn the belt loops close together so my jeans didn’t fall down. I had lost about 15 pounds since we had arrived home three months ago. Given the fact that I didn’t have any weight to lose on my 5’6” frame I looked on the verge of anorexia. Food had lost its taste and I had more important things to take care of each day. My dirty blond, shoulder length hair needed highlighting, my dark roots were beginning to show more than I liked, but leaving the house for a 2 hour event wasn’t going to happen. As I stared into the mirror, I lost myself. I had crawled into the mirror and burrowed into the blue hollows of my eyes. I stared and stared back. I didn’t recognize myself and yet I knew who I was and what I had to do – I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I wanted to run and never come back, but I knew who I was and I knew that I was in this for the long haul, no matter what that meant. Till death do us part.
I brushed my teeth feeling the bristles on my gums thinking of what was to come. As I washed my face, the hot water felt good and bad at the same time. Good because it made me feel something, bad because it felt like a flame licking my face. Such routine in such chaos. I went to the closet and pulled on a t-shirt and some flannel pajama bottoms. After getting my night clothes on I turned to walk back into the bedroom. The bedside lamp on Ian’s side was on and the rest of the room was dim. The two windows on either side of the king sized bed were closed and the curtains were drawn. I couldn’t believe that our bedroom had been turned into a hospital room in the last few hours. There was the boxed air mattress on one side of the bed, which I would have to figure out how to use and place on Ian’s side of the bed in the morning. Also there was the freshly delivered plastic covered shower chair and walker which were pushed into the corner by the television. A bedside commode was also brought over, which I was thankful for because I didn’t think Ian would be able to ever walk to the bathroom again. The oxygen compressor was on and making a loud whirring noise. Ian didn’t seem to be bothered by the noise, and I was so relieved that he was getting the fresh clean oxygen that he needed. I walked to his bedside. I had showered him earlier in the day, which I never thought I would be able to do. The thought of it felt so demeaning for both Ian and me and yet when I took him into the shower and washed his shrunken 125 pound body, the reality of it became beautiful and lovely. He was a man returned to a child. He sat innocently, depending on me to clean his body. He had been a robust 230 pound man 7 years earlier, before being diagnosed with Lymphoma.
As my eyes wondered over the king sized bed with the cream and tan satin duvet cover, which we had purchased almost two years prior for our ten year anniversary, I caught sight of the new wedding band on Ian’s finger that I had given him a week ago as a surprise Valentine’s Day gift. His fingers had gotten so small due to his continued weight loss that his original wedding band was swimming on his ring finger and he finally had to put it in a safe place so it wouldn’t be lost. He had mentioned once or twice over the years that he had wished he had gotten a yellow and white gold band, as it would have been more versatile. I decided that I would get him a yellow gold and platinum band, one that would really last. It seemed extravagant, as it cost over $1,000 and yet when I handed him the gift and he fumbled to open the ribbon wrapped package and saw what lay within, the tears in his eyes made every penny worth the expense. He was so grateful to be able to show his love for me by wearing his new ring.
I continued to follow my gaze up to Ian’s sunken face. He looked serene and ravaged at the same time. He was in no pain while sleeping which was a blessing. Yet his face showed the stress and stain of fighting this terrible disease. The scar on his neck seemed to grow as his body shrunk. It was the original sight of the lymphoma, a swollen lymph gland which after removal never healed properly and left an angry scar. He had undergone 3 bone marrow transplants, one a year after his initial diagnosis, which was in 1997, and two more during our 7 month stay in Seattle, where we lived with our two children in a hotel for over seven months so that Ian could get the best cancer treatment in the country. He had also undergone hundreds of countless horrific experiences trying to fight his way out of this terrible type of hell. His cheeks were sunken, his brown hair a wisp of its former self, his skin sallow and hanging. His mouth had become distorted; his teeth seemed disproportionally too big for his small face. It was almost as if his skull was peering out from beneath his skin. At the time all of these changes had happened so gradually that it didn’t seem so striking. I could really only tell when we went out in public and saw the way people would stare at us, then reality was brought home to me – that things weren’t right. I bent over and kissed Ian’s forehead, “Goodnight my love, sleep well.”
The art of living after the death of a loved one is quite challenging, to say the least. I lost my husband, Ian Sharpe at the age of 44. He died after a seven year battle with lymphoma. His struggle included three stem cell transplants, a one month hospital stay at Sloan Kettering Hospital in NYC, and a seven month visit to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Care Alliance in Seattle, Washington. Our family lived in a Marriott Residence Inn for the entire seven months!
Ian did have a four year remission in the middle of his battle, which allowed some time for creating lasting memories as a family. Vacations at Disney World, attending Camp Sacramento – near Lake Tahoe in California, and the opportunity to coach Jenna and Robbie’s soccer teams were all enjoyed. Unfortunately night sweats, fevers and weight loss crept back into our lives while celebrating our ten year wedding anniversary in Bermuda. I knew at that moment that we were going to have a bad ending…
When Ian succumbed to death on February 22, 2004, I realized I was relieved. I was relieved for him – his fight was long, painful and arduous. I was also relieved for myself – I hate to admit it – but I was. The task of caring for the dying is difficult and all consuming.
My mother arrived in Connecticut the day after his death and stayed with me for a couple of weeks. I couldn’t eat, sleep or breath. I was truly happy for him, as the pain and agony were over. I was terrified for myself, I was alone with two kids – 8 and 10 years old. We then all flew to Minnesota and stayed at my mom’s for a week. It was nice to be away from the house. It was comforting to be taken care of. Our final week away, we went on a cruise to the Caribbean. It was a family affair, as my brother’s family and my mom and her husband attended. Being on the ocean, in warm breezes and surrounded by people that both loved and cared for me (my family) and by people that had no clue what had just happened to me was cleansing and refreshing. It was nice to get away.
The scariest part was returning home to an empty house. Opening the door would make it real – Ian not being there would be proof that he died and it was only me and the kids now. It was dreadful. But, I did it. I stepped over that threshold and didn’t look back. I made the decision that life would go on and that I needed to take charge. Of course, I had my sad times and my fits of rage and frustration for being left here on this earth. I kept myself busy with positive activities. I took up Pilates and bought new clothes – I had been living in sweat pants for the two years before Ian died! I met my friends for lunch even had my house Feng Shuied (an ancient Chinese art of arranging your possessions for positive life results). The Feng Shui changed my life – many more blogs about that in the future!!!
It is now many years later, and I’ve never been happier. I’ve remarried and my amazing, fabulous husband, David, adopted my children. Ironically he always wanted children, but never wanted to do the baby thing – and he always wanted a son names Robert – yes my son’s name is Robert! I’m also thrilled, as I am now pursuing my life long dream of helping others to achieve their happiness in life.
Losing a loved one is awful – but if you keep moving forward, while always remembering your loved one in your heart, and allowing their whispers of advice to guide your way, life can be even sweeter and happier – I guarantee it.
Love and Blessings! – Lisa