Ch. 147 Pat Quietly Passes Away
June 30 and July 1,2022
I answered the phone just as I was about to leave my house to drive to The Refuge. “Will you get here soon?” asked Diane, the nurse, “We don’t think Pat has much longer to live.” By the time I arrived my children Jenny and Joshua were there. Cindy, having to drive 100 miles, arrived two hours later. Within another two hours our entire family convened: one husband(me), three children, two son in-laws, one daughter in-law, four grandchildren and one fiancée of a grandchild. Plus, Levi, our Collie because I wanted him to have a chance to say good-bye. Plus, Anne Marie, a friend and former Hospice chaplain, who will direct our funeral service. Plus, Hector, my good friend whose mother had passed away at The Refuge less than month before. Fifteen witnesses.
And thus began our vigil.
Pat was unconscious, mostly on her own but assisted by timely doses of morphine and an anti-anxiety agent. She was breathing with difficulty but regularly. Phlegm was accumulating in her throat, causing a rattling sound, very distressing for us to hear (though not painful for Pat), but even that was minimized with medications. By evening Pat was still steady enough for most of us to catch a little sleep, until I received a call from Cindy, at Pat’s bedside, around 3:00 a.m., asking me to call the others and come quickly. Pat’s pulse rate had dropped, her skin had a yellowish tint, and her breath was strained. Nevertheless, she hung on to life until perhaps 11 a.m., when within five minutes Pat’s breath slowed and then abruptly stopped. Her 77-year and 10-month journey through life had ended. Our marriage of 56 years and 363 days was complete.
One source of great comfort was that several of the staff at The Refuge came to tell us how much they loved Pat. These seasoned professional caregivers said they had cherished Pat’s smile, appreciated her feistiness, and learned lessons about life from Pat even as her own life was gradually diminishing.
I cried more these two days than ever before, each burst of tears providing a few minutes of relief. My children and grandchildren held me, rubbed my back as I cried, and matched my loud sobs with their gentle tears.
My greatest hope during Pat’s five-year ordeal with Lewy Body Dementia and Bullous Pemphigoid was that I would stay healthy enough to support her journey to its finish. Fortunately, that wish was fulfilled. During the last two years, as Pat became increasingly incapacitated, I was with my partner every day during that period except for one bout with Covid and one brief illness. I will always be grateful that I, like the staff at The Refuge, could see her radiant smile and learn lessons about life from Pat during those years. She was an excellent teacher even when she could no longer speak complete sentences. Let me add that I never heard Pat complain about her fate; not once did she ask why she, such an intelligent and creative woman, had been singled out to endure dementia and disease; nor did she ever complain when she had to spend the last months in institutional care. “I’m here to stay, aren’t I” was all she said.
Pat Potter-Efron was and is no more. I will miss her every day. I will remember her every day. And I will love her the rest of my life.