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Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Journey's End


This time last week I was in the middle of what was to become a truly memorable weekend with Suzie in Rowcroft Hospice. Saturday was a day filled with the love of family and friends who came to visit us. Suzie was weak and tired, and it was all a bit much for her in some ways, but she delighted in the knowledge of how very much she was loved.
She was becoming increasingly frustrated and distressed by being confined to her bed, and she kept begging me to get her up. Of course, I couldn't, and it broke my heart to see her so disturbed and yet be unable to 'make it better'. We had a chat with the nurses and they said that the following day they would get her into a wheelchair and help me to take her outside. Suzie went to sleep with this hope in her mind, and, by about 5.30am, she was totally focused on the thought of going outside in the sunshine. The next few hours were dominated by her increasingly impatient anticipation of this. Anyone who knows Suzie will know that she's never coped well with having to wait for things! Her speech was very difficult to understand by this point, but she certainly tried that morning. Phrases such as 'Come on then, let's get on with it', and, 'What are we waiting for?' flowed relentlessly from Suzie's lips. Eventually the time came and the nurses carefully hoisted Suzie into their most comfortable wheelchair, wrapped her gently and snugly in a warm fleece blanket, and helped us outside into the stunning gardens. It was a most beautiful sunny Sunday morning and the air was filled with birdsong and the fragrance of spring flowers. A gentle breeze kissed Suzie's cheeks, and her face shone with a radiant beauty and peace. Words could never describe the wonder of that morning. 
That afternoon we were visited by my daughter and a very dear friend. I will cherish the memory of that time for ever. Suzie has always loved taking centre stage and entertaining people, and that's what she did that afternoon. It was as though someone had switched a spotlight on her and she suddenly realised she had an audience! Her speech was very difficult to understand, but her gestures, her expressions, and the rolling of her eyes as she 'played to the gallery', were sheer eloquence. She had us all laughing and smiling, and it was so lovely to see her true personality shining through. That night Suzie slept peacefully all night, for the first time in many months.
On Monday we had a very different kind of day. This would be Suzie's 'spiritual' day. A very dear friend of ours is part of the Chaplaincy Team at Rowcroft and he came to visit us. He was so incredibly sensitive and gentle as he administered Holy Communion to us, and then gave Suzie the sacrament of anointing. There was a wonderful sense of calm and peace after this Holy time. Later that day we were also visited by our own lovely Priest. By that time Suzie was rarely opening her eyes but she managed to do so that that afternoon, making sure we could both see the twinkle in her eyes for the Vicar! More prayers and anointing left Suzie in no doubt that she was at peace with God. Later that day she began to get a little restless again so the nurses wheeled her bed down to the Hospice Chapel and I played some worship songs on the piano there. She settled into a peaceful sleep early that evening.
It was soon after 4am on Tuesday morning, as I lay sleeping next to Suzie, that a nurse gently woke me up. They had been observing Suzie's breathing and had recognised signs that suggested she was slipping away. I sat calmly beside her bed gazing at my precious Suzie, holding her hand and gently stroking her cheek, quietly whispering words of love and encouragement as her journey on this earth came to an end. She was so very peaceful and she looked incredibly serene and beautiful. For a moment time stood still.
The hours, and, indeed, days, that followed have been a bit of a blur. Maybe I will share more about that in my next entry. For now though, I just remember my wonderful Suzie with a huge sense of gratitude that I was privileged to share 20 years of my life with her. Suzie made me who I am today, and I'm sure that the legacy of her love will continue to shine her light into the dark days that I now face. Suzie is at peace now in the loving arms of her Saviour Jesus, and our loss is Heaven's gain. Rest in Peace my angel.