Good-bye My Love

by | May 26, 2002 | Death, Eternity, Grief, Surrender

I moved to New Jersey in the fall of 2002 for a new job. My wife, Georgia, stayed behind with our two children to allow my daughter to complete her final year of high school. Before I left, I suspected my wife was not well, but she refused to see a doctor, arguing that she was fine.

My new job kept me busy. Trips home were limited to once every couple of months. During each visit, I could tell Georgia was getting worse. She would sit on the sofa and hold her right side. When I asked if she was OK, she would claim she was fine. I watched her closely and knew she was lying. Both her mother and grandmother had died from cancer. She was afraid she had gotten the disease as well.

On a visit for Valentines in 2003, I finally convinced her to see a doctor; six months after I first asked her to. She was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. Years of drinking had taken its toll. She told me the doctor said she would be fine, as long as she stopped drinking. The doctors later told me they were not sure if she did stop.

Two months later, she was admitted to the hospital for transfusions and other treatments. A few months after that, she was admitted for more treatments. When she was released, she was too weak to attend our daughter’s graduation. I watched the ceremony alone. Tears formed in my eyes for two reasons that morning: Seeing my little girl all grown up and because Georgia was unable to witness it.

A few friends dropped by our house to celebrate my daughter’s big day. They hadn’t seen Georgia in many months and were shocked by her appearance. She had lost of lot weight. Her arms and legs were sticks, her abdomen was distended, and her skin was the color of an onion.

We planned for her and my son, Justin, to move to New Jersey with me in August. The day before the scheduled move she was admitted to the hospital with elevated potassium levels. Georgia told me to go ahead with the move; she would only be in the hospital for a few days. The few days stretched into a week. Justin and I went to New Jersey to meet the movers. While we were unpacking and preparing the new house for her arrival, her kidneys failed. It took a month for them to stabilize her enough to handle a flight. At the time, I wondered what they meant. She didn’t appear that weak when I left her.

One day I had a call from the case worker. She said, “Georgia is now on dialysis. We just did a treatment today. You have to arrange a flight for her to New Jersey for tomorrow, and get her to dialysis the following day. She will need treatments three times a week.”

I was at the airport arrivals, as they wheeled her around the corner. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Georgia had aged 30 years in only a few weeks. Her face and arms were nothing but skin over the bone, but her feet were so swollen she couldn’t wear her normal shoes. For the first time, I wondered if she was going to survive this battle. We got her in the car, and I took her to our new home and attempted to get her into the house. With her arm in my hand, she shuffled to the steps, but couldn’t lift her legs enough to get up the steps. I called Justin for help. Together we lifted her legs, one at a time, and slowly got her to the landing by the door, where she collapsed to her hands and knees.

We tried everything to get her up, but she was too weak. Justin ran to his room. I could hear him banging things around. I sat with her, trying to convince her I needed to call 911, but she didn’t want that. A lady walking in the street said she was a nurse and asked if she could help. The good Lord had sent us an angel. With her help, we got Georgia into a sitting position. She was the one to convince Georgia that we needed 911 assistance.

Georgia had a note from the doctors stating she could be forcefully admitted to a hospital if she exhibited any one of a variety of symptoms. She showed none of these symptoms, therefore, they couldn’t take her when she refused. They carried her into the house and made her comfortable on the sofa.

I talked to Justin later. He was in tears. “Dad, what happened? That’s not my mom down there! What happened to her?” I had no answer for him. I was as shocked as he was.

The next day, I couldn’t get her to her feet. I had to call 911 again. Two policemen came and helped me get her to the bathroom and down the stairs to the car. I remember looking at them and saying, “If I ever get that bad, take that gun on your hip, and put me out of my misery.”

At the dialysis center, a case worker arranged for Georgia to get ambulance transport to and from the center. She, also, gave me advice on how to arrange for home care. I left there and went home, where I added cushions to the sofa. I figured, if she was sitting higher, I would be able to get her to her feet easier.

I borrowed a walker from the fire department, and Georgia and I developed a system. Lifting her legs, I would swing them over the side of the sofa, take her hands in mine and twist her into a sitting position. I would bend down, hug her under her arms, whisper “I love you,” and lift her to a standing position. She then used the walker to get to the bathroom, but she still needed my help with her pants, sitting, wiping, and standing again.

This went on for a several weeks. However, as time went on, she became weaker. The poisons in her body caused hallucinations. She would see people that weren’t there and try to talk to them. She could no longer use the walker on her own, and often lost control of her bodily functions. I had to hold her up as she made her way to the bathroom. I was a wreck trying to keep up with a busy job, dealing with my son, and trying to take care of her. My hands were shaking constantly, and I had trouble concentrating at work.

Four weeks after she moved to New Jersey, she had trouble holding her food and drinks down. When I arrived home from work that evening, she was crying. I asked, “What’s wrong, Hun?”

“I fell down.”

“You fell down? You couldn’t have. How did you get back on the sofa?”

“I fell off my horsy.”

I called 911 right away. At the hospital, they said she had a severe infection.

The next morning, I spoke to the doctors.

“Mr. Smith, Georgia is not doing very well. How do you feel about life support?”

“It’s that bad?” I asked

“I’m afraid so.”

“My wife and I agreed we would never want to be on life support.”

“Mr. Smith,” He said, “I understand, but sometimes it is needed for a short time to get someone over a hump.”

Later that day, she was put into a drug induced coma and connected to life support.

Every night I would leave work and sit by her bedside. As I held her hands, I would tell her I loved her, talk about my day, and tell her how the kids were doing. The nurses and doctors explained to me, although a patient is unresponsive, they can still hear. I hope they were right.

I called the intensive care unit one afternoon to ask how she was doing. The nurse said, “Mr. Smith, Georgia had a bad day. Are you coming to see her tonight?” Warning bells went off in my head. I visited every night. They knew I did. Why would they ask me such a question?

That evening, I was at her side as usual and the nurse came in. “Mr. Smith, I took care of Georgia today. She had a bad day. Are you going to be here for awhile? The doctor needs to speak to you, but he is busy right now. If possible, can you wait for him?”

“Sure! I can wait.”

“Good! There are some decisions to be made.’ she said and left the room.

I’ll never forget that night. I waited in the room with Georgia. The only sounds were my sobs and the machines. In my heart, I knew the decision I was going to have to make. I paced the room crying and talking to her, hearing the machines keeping her alive. The doctor was coming. I knew the reason.

I cried even harder.

I said, “Honey, I think they are going to ask me to turn off the machines. Georgia, I think they are right. We discussed this in the past. We decided we would not want to be on these machines. I hope you can forgive me, Sweetie. I love you so much.”

For forty minutes, I paced the room and cried. They were the longest forty minutes I have ever endured. I never felt so alone. I was new to New Jersey and had only a few friends, most of them co-workers. All my family lived in Nova Scotia. Georgia’s only remaining family lived in Hungary. I was on my own. I was a grown man, but that night, I would have done anything to have had my mommy with me.

The doctor finally arrived. He said, “Mr. Smith, Georgia is not doing so well. In situations like this, we have to make decisions. Our main function here is to prolong life, however, there’s a time when we are prolonging life and also a time when are prolonging death. In this case, I’m afraid we are prolonging Georgia’s death.”

I asked the doctor to wait until my daughter, Vanessa, could fly from Ohio. A week later we sat by Georgia’s side, Vanessa holding one of Georgia’s hands and me holding the other. Several doctors came and assured us that we were doing the right thing. Georgia was no longer in an induced coma. She was in a real coma now. They asked us to leave the room for a few minutes, while they removed the machines, and cleaned her up. When they finished, they invited us back in.

Georgia was breathing deep gulps of air, as we had been warned. Vanessa and I sat and held her hands again. We kept talking to her, telling her it was OK for her to leave us. We understood. We noticed breaks in her breathing. She would stop for a few seconds and then start again. These pauses became more frequent and lasted longer as time went by.

A little over an hour after the machines had been removed, Georgia was in Heaven.

Goodbye, my love. Thank you for the children you gave me and the love and laughter we shared.

Michael Smith


Good-bye My Love