Called on hospice care so he could die peacefully at home.
"Our biggest prayer was that Dick would die peacefully at home. I could not have asked for more."
A Peaceful Goodbye by the Lake
“This was our dream,” explains Judy Watts, who lives surrounded by beautiful wood crafts and furniture created by her husband, Dick. “We always wanted to retire on this lake.” The couple’s dream house sits on the waterfront, complete with a dock, gazebo and little log cabin-style tool shop that Dick built.
It was October 2008 when a specialist informed Dick that he had pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that usually gives a patient three to five years of life expectancy once the patient requires oxygen treatments. On the long drive home from the specialist’s office, Judy and Dick acknowledged that Dick had already been on oxygen for two and a half years.
Realizing quickly that their conversation had become a serious one, the couple discussed Dick’s wishes. Dick firmly communicated that he wished to stay at home in his house on the lake with Judy by his side. Judy vowed to care for him as long as she could. The couple agreed in the car that day that she would call hospice when it came to the point that she could no longer care for him alone. That point came in May 2009.
Judy recalled the hospice nurse’s first visit to the house, “She was so warm and caring. She was so concerned about our fears and questions and needs. When she asked Dick what his main concern was, he said it was me.”
Throughout the final weeks of Dick’s life, Judy recorded these thoughts in her journal:
May 12 – He never complains. He keeps his sense of humor and we still retain our close connections of being able to share, talk and finish each other’s sentences – reading each other’s minds sometimes. Sharing what is on our hearts, holding nothing back – crying in each other’s arms for what we are losing… thanking God for what we have.
July 1 –I cling to these days we get to spend together, just him and I, and I get to help him leave this place in his own home the way he wanted so much. What a blessing to hold on to – it gives me so much comfort.
On July 16, 2009, after the hospice nurse and nurse aide left, Judy sat one last time by the side of her beloved husband. She held his hand and told him how much she loved him. She leaned in closely and told him that it was okay for him to let go. A few minutes later, Dick breathed his final breath.
When Judy accepted that he was really gone, she kissed him on the forehead and thanked God for the 32 years she had with him. Judy took care of him, one final time, washing his face, combing his hair and covering him with a blanket. She called her girlfriend and then called hospice. Judy and her friend waited in the gazebo on the water that Dick had built for her while he was taken to the funeral home.
Judy recalls this painful day with remarkable gratitude. “Our biggest prayer was that Dick would die peacefully at home. I could not have asked for more. It was so peaceful. I got to help him here at home. We were able to say goodbye, how and where he wanted.”
Judy is moving forward, living life as she and Dick always did, refusing to be bitter and never asking why. Yes, she sheds tears. But true to her character, his legacy and their shared faith, like her own words from her journal; Judy cries for what she has lost – thanking God for what she had.
For more information about services available through MidMichigan Home Care, or to schedule and in-home assessment, call MidMichigan Home Care at (989) 633-1400 or toll-free at (800) 852-9350 or visit www.midmichigan.org/homecare.