Our day had become inconceivable. Deb was going home to tell her family the devastating news and would ring Mum, Dad, Sue and Mike for me. Bren’s mum and dad had arrived. They were shaken and pale. Andrew had returned and was able to explain everything to them. They rang Charles and Karen, asked them to come home, and decided they would go back to the farm and get some clothes so they could stay the night at our place. Bren was in a lot of pain, and his vitals had dropped. They wanted to be with him.
Bren’s pain was now beyond management with his usual medication. Andrew had ordered stronger drugs that would be given through a Syringe driver. It was due to be administered at around 2:30 pm. Slowly our closest family and friends arrived to say goodbye. I found it hard to comprehend my husband was dying, and everyone was here to see him for the last time. When his moment of death happened, our time together would be over. I would never see him again. Never curl up next to him or hold his hand. He had beautiful hands.
The phone rang – it took me a minute to find it. It was Charles. He said Margaret had rung to tell him to come home. He was just checking that he needed to before booking a plane ticket. They get things wrong sometimes, he explained.
“Get on a plane today if you can.” I pleaded, “they haven’t got this wrong.“ I was stunned and confused. I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t already at the airport. It was a two-hour flight from where he lived to our closest airport and then a two-hour drive to our house. I wasn’t sure he would make it in time.
Things were getting chaotic — my mind was like scrambled eggs. I could not think straight through the fog of exhaustion, grief and confusion. Glenn’s words returned to me. He said something like, ‘people will expect things of you. You will have to set boundaries.’ I wondered if he meant it would start this early. I know we were all just trying to survive what was happening — but I was hanging on by a thread and struggling to hold it together.
I hadn’t seen the kids for what seemed like an hour.
“Deb, where are the kids?” I asked as she was heading out the door to go home.
“They’re in their rooms — they’re OK,” she said, hugging me goodbye. She would be back later. My sisters were my worker angels. They were keeping me afloat as they moved in and out of our home — in stealth mode. They headed up a small, tight crew who ensured we got meals, plenty of hugs, and anything else we needed without fuss or interruption. These were my people.
“Yes! We’ve let Charles know. No, come as soon as you can.” Margaret said to Karen quietly over the phone.
“Stay here. There’s plenty of room. Callie, Tyra, and Baden are all sleeping in the lounge room. You can use one of their beds. I told Charles the same.” She continued.
I was sitting behind Bren’s chair, gently placing my hands on him — using Reiki hand positions to soothe him. I knew he could hear his Mum’s phone conversation and felt his energy change. He was agitated.
It was a difficult time to have a house full of people. Bren loved his family, but it was a lot for him to have extra people in our home at this time and for me too. We had discussed what he would need when this time came and had a plan. I wasn’t sure how much food we had in the fridge or cupboards. And I was pretty sure the sheets on the kid’s beds hadn’t been changed since they stopped sleeping in them. I knew no one would care. But I cared. Then again, I wasn’t in my right mind. I would also need to wash some towels if everyone was staying with us. The thought of four more people to look after was overwhelming.
I wasn’t sure how to honour Bren’s wishes without hurting his family’s feelings. I didn’t want to make things harder for anyone. I really didn’t know how to handle the situation so everyone would feel they were being cared for. I quickly realised that my first duty had to be to my husband and his final wishes. I promised him it would be the four of us.
Bren could still speak a little as many of his favourite people started to arrive to say goodbye. The syringe driver Andrew administered after lunch hadn’t taken full effect yet. When it did, Bren would lose his ability to speak. Before that happened — he was able to tell our family and friends he loved them, one by one, and they told him the same.
I sat squarely in front of him after the last of our visitors had left, as far inside his personal space as possible and told him I loved him over and over. I could see he was desperate for me to know he felt the same. I kissed him twice, passionately, and he kissed me back as hard as he could. There were fine traces of blood in his tears and the fluid coming from his nose. I wiped them away quickly so the kids wouldn’t see them.
We chatted, well I did — quietly about the things we had done and places we had gone. I talked about the night we met and how hot he looked. He tried to respond. It was devastating to think we wouldn’t ever chat or laugh together again. I asked him if he remembered the first thing I said. We always jokingly disagreed on what that was.
As Bren drifted in and out of consciousness, I scrolled through my phone with one hand and ensured the other was always on him. So many of our memories are stored here in photos, messages, diary entries and blog posts. I was grateful for writing it all down. He used to tease me about journaling — everything. It was something I had done since childhood. Thankfully I had recorded most of our lives together. I reminded him of some parts, the best parts in whispers — in case he could hear me.
Remembering was beautiful painful …
July 2017: Although cancer had left Bren’s strong, fit body battered –it couldn’t take his sharp mind, wicked sense of humour, strength, grace or smile. He kept those till the very end.