I didn’t know when Lance said very softly “I love you Nan” in the early hours Friday morning on the 8th (around 2am), that that would be his last words. Later, as I was holding his hand and he was unable to communicate anymore, he squeezed my hand 3x which I thought to myself “Is he doing ‘the thing’ we have done for 16 years?” Three times, meant “I love you.” So I squeezed back 4x “I love you too.” Then he squeezed back 2x “How much?” and then I squeezed one more time as hard as I could….meaning “so very much.” This would be the last communication I would have with him.
What happened? To some, Lance’s passing may have felt sudden and shocking. His decline was quick. In fact he died exactly one month after we returned from Puerto Rico. He worked until 2 weeks before his death and even held a sales meeting at our house a week before he died. He was never in pain until the day before he died and for this I am eternally grateful.
Lance was given a very dismal diagnosis back in January 2011 but I truly (as did he) felt in our hearts that we would beat this. In fact Lance said days before his death, “I never thought this would get me.” This past March when we received a bad MRI, I was still hopeful against all odds but also feeling like I might have to face a harsh reality. Lance was pretty determined until two days before his death which is a testament to who Lance was.
The thoughts and details I was personally struggling with in those past few months were difficult for me to always share with Lance because I was trying to take his lead. I wanted to be the person he needed me to be (his cheerleader, supporter, partner in hope) but when you are faced with the potential of someone dying, you can’t just stand passively by if the worst does happen and your biggest wish is to make the very end as peaceful and natural as possible.
My goal was that Lance would not end up in a hospital…cold, isolated, sterile, behind closed doors and so not Lance. I knew that if Lance were to die I wanted him to be in the comforts of our home and around people who loved him. With a stoke of luck and the love, dedication and unstinting help of friends, we made that happen. Next I was looking at the process after his death which can often look something like this: wisking the body away, funeral homes, embalming…all cold, weird and NOT LANCE. I wanted Lance to go Lance style…and boy did he ever.
Over the next few weeks I will be writing about the last 48 hours of Lance’s life and the days that followed. Lance, forever my teacher, left me with some powerful lessons about both life and death in his final days. I am sharing this not only because it is cathartic for me, but his death was something as close friends witnessed, incredible and helped demystify death which by all accounts felt like Lance’s last gift.
While there is no amount of words to express how much I wish Lance was still here and how I know the worst of my sorrow is yet to come, his death and three day ceremony to follow were magical and unforgettable. His last ride in his ’68 Ford pick up truck with seven guys gathered around him as I drove to the Shambhala Center was just one of the many extraordinary events that happened in the course of 3 days….but more on that later (with pictures).
Lance and my common goal in starting this blog was to share the insights and lessons we learned throughout this experience in hopes that people will make changes without having an ending like ours. I will continue to share those teachings because I feel passionate about them as well as in my own small way, it is my way of honoring the amazing and one-of-a-kind man that was my husband.
PS: A couple of articles about Lance: