I’m sure most people don’t think about the process of dying. Or you’ve heard phrases like dying peacefully in your sleep or death on impact or whatever the case may be. This wasn’t my experience on any account. I’m writing this particular post for myself, so I will always remember these last moments. This was my experience alone. I don’t mind letting you into my mind those days, so read if you wish. I’m sure they will be etched in my mind and heart forever, but just in case….. I felt Ryder dying with all my senses.
Of course the emotional aspect was involved, but I never realized how much I could possibly “see, feel, smell, hear, taste” and do in the process of my child dying. As I held Ryder for days, hours and moments before he passed, I experienced many senses at their fullest peak. This wasn’t true at first, until Tyler said “Mom, I can taste that smell on my tongue.” That hit me, hard, and I opened up all my senses to experience what Tyler was feeling.
Sight: I’d say I actually began to see signs of Ryder dying 3 days prior. I saw his skin become blotchy red in different areas of his body. I saw a bluish/purple vein more prevalent from the corner of his left side of his lips down to his chin, as my sister pointed out. I saw his G-tube output turn to a brownish color with floating specs (a GI bleed). As it became closer, I saw Ryder’s body turn different shades of yellow, ash and pale. I saw Ry’s body becoming dehydrated. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. His eyes where crusted closed. His lips were tough and peeling. I saw familiar nurses, child life specialists, doctors, other families and volunteers roaming around the Ryan House. I saw bright colors in the rooms. I saw guitars, art projects, footprints, handprints, and courage beads. I also saw it rain 3 nights straight. I saw balloons sent to Ryder by those who loved him, toys and food (lots and lots of food- mostly sushi due to a slight mishap with the sashimi order by Jen...at least it wasn’t corn this time sis!lol). I watched Ryder’s chest rise and fall. Sometimes it was uneven and he had rippled skin on his left lower side.
Smell: Dough. Raw Pillsbury dough will always remind me of that day. That was actually a sweet smell that I loved. There was also the rancid, indescribable, yucky smell of death for a few days and the stinkiest breath EVER!! And of course—the food…. I don’t think family can get away from food when they are experiencing a loss.
Taste: As Tyler said, the smell (mostly the yucky one) intertwined and traveled up my nose and in my mouth landing on my tongue. It was just there. I just accepted it.
Hear: There were so many sounds. Ryder whimpered from time to time. I could hear every breath and the depth of them. I heard stomach rumples and even some toots (from Ryder and Les-ha-ha).I heard the meaning of different songs playing, myself singing to Ryder, and Les playing the guitar. I heard crying, rain, kisses, clocks, running water for his baths, and my boys making a ruckus in the halls. I heard the doctors trying to tell me what I didn’t want to hear. I heard over and over from everyone; I’m sorry, it’s not supposed to be like this, can I get you anything, “You should get in bed with him now,” and of course “CAN I GET YOU SOMETHING TO EAT?” The last several HOURS were especially hard to hear. It sounded like Ryder was drowning. Right there in our arms, he was drowning. I couldn’t do anything. No position I held him in would stop those awful sounds. He’d stop breathing for minutes. When I thought it was over, it started up again- many times over, for hours. It wasn’t the sound of a peaceful passing. It was my worst imaginable death- drowning. It was like Ryder was no longer with us, but wasn’t in Heaven yet either.
Feeling: heart beat changes, pulling and tightness in my heart up through my throat. Wondering; is he in pain, thirsty, starving, or dreaming and will this elephant ever get off my chest? I could feel his body weight laying on me. I felt his mid body warm/hot to the touch. His nose and feet were cold. I could feel the changes between rapid and slow heart beats. I could feel the rubberiness of his cheeks. I felt the water as I took his last baths with him and the wind as I rocked him outside during the storm. I felt emptiness, nothingness, and frozen in time. I felt his eyelashes, nose, ears, legs, tummy, lips, back, bootie, arms, head, hair, neck, skin and just him, everywhere. I want to remember how soft and beautiful every part of him is/was. I felt aches in my arms and body not wanting to change positions or go to the bathroom because I didn’t want to leave him. I didn’t want to move. I felt fluffy stuffed animals around us. I felt Les holding us and his heart breaking with mine. I felt Les’ protection for me and love for his family.
Doing: All I could do was hold Ryder so close to me, reassure him that he could go when he wanted to and that Mommy would be okay. I asked him to visit me in my dreams and show me signs that he was okay. I took baths with him and let him float. I sang to him, told him everything he meant to me and stared at him. Such a perfect body and soul. I rubbed his arms and legs, face and jaws. I put ointment on his lips and gave him water on a sponge which he sucked. I cried over him, covered him with a blanket, rocked him and kept a close vigil. I needed to be with him when he left us. I anticipated every breath. I even breathed with him- taking in as much air at the same depth and frequency Ryder did. It hurt. I was told Ryder couldn’t feel anything after all the seizure activity and medication he was given. I hope he couldn’t. I don’t know what to do now. I can’t stay in one place very long. I can’t sleep long. I don’t want to talk yet except to Les, the boys and my sister. I just need to be and feel what I’m feeling with no expectations or words. I need to just be. I love you all and feel your love very much so. I just need to take things in on my own time.