Friday, March 8, 2013

Notes from Dad’s Death compiled by Joyce Williamson, oldest daughter of Max M. Howe (May 27, 1935 – March 5, 2013)

 Bob and I drove down Monday, Feb 25, 2013. (Arlington, Texas to Kingwood, TX)  Bob took a week of vacation time to help out.  I packed to stay longer if needed. 

On Thursday, February 28th, my Dad seemed different..sleeping more, no appetite, etc. so Mother called for an extra nurse visit.  The Hospice Nurse, Mary, said to watch him overnight, but also start the smallest dose of morphine as the strees/pain indicated in the eybrow, brow, and clinched fists were pain indicators.  And she said he might be in or starting “transition”.  She warned that anything ingested –water or food—the danger of going straight to the lungs, so we were instructed to wet his lips with the small sponges.  Dad showed no aversion to the bitterness of the morphine which indicated his sense of taste is diminished.  He slept well until midnight and was a little restless---arms and hands to face to wipe eyes and nose.  Mother and I observed his breathing all night, but did not see any other indicators like rapid respiration, etc.  At 4am I stood next to his bed and he said, so sweetly, so gently and softly three times:  “I love you. I love you. I love you.”

And “I love all of you” and “thank you” whenever we gave him a sponge of water to sip or put water on his lips. 

Friday, March 1, 2013 

The aide gave him a bath, and washed his hair.  Output is down and no blowouts (bowel movements) since yesterday morning—had to change the sheets with that last one. 

Breathing easy.  Sleeping and coughing and clearing throat seldom compared to spitting yesterday. (he always was a phlegmy person).  The wet, combed hair gives him a much more normal appearance to me.  More noble compared to the wild-professor look of the bed-hair head. 

I sent out an email to everyone saying that I am so thankful all have visited that could.  And please pray for strength for my Mother as the next stage indicators to watch for, and being up and down with Dad all night can physically wear her out….  We so covet your prayers thus far, as we see God working so smoothly, seamlessly. 

We’d ask him if he was in pain, and he’d say, no.  We played music on the laptop, sermons on the radio KHCB.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

4:30 am  I felt a poem coming on as I sat in a chair beside Dad’s bed so Mother could sleep.  So, I got up and wrote my thoughts down in a rough draft.  Basically, it documented Dad’s illness for me to help with the chronology.  Mother said Dad had not felt good in years.  (two hospital stays, one in January, and one in February… Jay and Mother brought him home to die under Hospice care Feb. 8th?  Our sons visited the next weekend of Feb. 16th, to say goodbye and help.  Tina came and stayed 10 days.  Jay came back on weekends. Bill the weekend of Feb 23rd.) We witnessed Dad rally for visits from church members visits:  Vance King, Pastor Larry, and members brought jokes that made Dad smile, stories, and food for all of us.  Pastor Larry shaved Dad a couple of times, and helped lift Dad for clean up jobs. 

5:30am I asked Dad how do you feel?  He replied, “Terrific” 

The loogies make me gag at first.  Hocking loogies, spitting at 6:30am Saturday.  (but, then, he was always a spitter)  It helped to sing this to the Count your Blessings song:  Hocking Loogies get them off your tongue…

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bill called on his way to church.  We put the phone to Dad’s ear.

Don Huber called and Dad said, “Don!” as I believe Dad recognized his voice.

“JIM ! JIM ! JIM!” when we put the phone to his ear when his brother called from Illinois.

Bob prepared to leave Sunday, and then we sang some hymns for Dad.  I had read some Psalms aloud that morning, as Mother requested a few by number, too.   Our first hymn, “It is Well” ---Dad belted out the mens’ part in the chorus.   “Be Still My Soul” (Bob’s fav) and “Overshadowed” p. 263 in the Making Melody hymnal Mother found for me.  Dad sang it as a solo at Berachah years ago.  (Claire posted on facebook that Grant in Sunday School had learned that Jesus healed the blonde man.) My Dad has been practically blind since catarak surgery.  A genetic problem was discovered after which he emailed everyone about at Christmas.  So, Jesus truly did heal the Blind man in our story.

Bob left for Arlington at 1pm and called us at 4:44pm. 

3-5pm deep restful sleep.  Finally. 7 breaths per minute.  

5pm awake, asleep, awake, asleep. Snoring. 

6:40pm told him who I was and asked if he wanted water? “I love you” was his answer. 

7pm turned on his left side all by himself.  We re-arranged covers to match, but he only stayed there 10 minutes or so. 

8pm legs up, uncovers himself. Is he bothered by itching? (when we asked later, Tomeka suggested it might be a morphine side effect.) We put sweat pants on him because he just would not keep covered.  Mother administered secretion medication and morphine.  

Monday, March 4, 2013 

7am sleeping

8am visit from old neighbor. Sleeping good. 

9am Tomeka, the wonderful aide that came by M-F to give him a bath, came and positioned him with his head high up.  He usually slept after a bath because it seemed to wear him out, but his nap stretched 2 hours, then 4, and the Hospice nurse, Mary could not rouse him patting his feet, putting water on his lips, poking him in the chest.  His arms and legs stayed where Tomeka had positioned him.  I continued to watch him from the foot of Mother’s bed with Dad’s laptop perched atop some hymnals.  At 7pm, I noticed his breaths had increased from the usual 7 or 8 a minute to 12 to 13. 

We were amazed how long he was sleeping—from 9am Monday until 1am Tuesday…no moving, hands and legs in same position.  Such a contrast to Sunday. 
I want to remember how when we went to  bed, knowing how Dad was, peaceful, not moving, wondering, was this the night?  Would he get to go to heaven tonight?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

1am  Dad coughed.  The first sound we had heard him make in 16 hours, and it had been 18 hours since last morphine dose.

2am  we cleared phlegm, used drops, rinsed his mouth

3am breathing 26 breaths per minute

3:15am morphine dose.  Only slight eyebrow movements. More phlegm clearing.

4:20am another morphine dose after Mother called the Hospice nurse.

4:40-5am  set a Tommy Nelson sermon from Denton Bible Church going to give us something to listen to while Dad breathed rapidly---as high as 30 breaths per minute. (link to the sermon)

5:25 to 5:27 (Dad’s birthday is 5-27-35) I noticed that Dad’s breath was finally softer, slower, with spaces, and I touched Mother’s shoulder to say, I think he is going. 

I thought the clock said 5:35am when we saw him breathe his last few breaths, but, we sat and watched him a while to be sure.  Felt his hand, chest.  Such a peaceful end.  A peaceful face.  Eyes closed.  I called Bob, and then Mother called Mary, the Hospice nurse. 

6:44am Mary started taking vitals, and declared him at 6:46am.  That is the time that will appear on his death certificate.  But we know when he died.  I wonder if he started to leave us earlier, as he had always moved his arms, hands, legs and feet until 9am Monday.  Was his brain stem just breathing for him from 9am until 5:25am the next day?  Did he have a stroke?  It does not matter now, but because Mary had told Mother that she would see her Wednesday, Mother seemed to think the nurse did not think he would die until after Wednesday.  Mary and Mother washed his body, crushed and destroyed all pills and medication, and in another hour, the first of the two funeral home men arrived.

Funeral home men came to pick up the body with a gurney.  Carrying his body out covered in a red velvet blanket.  then the hospital rental company picked up the bed, oxygen equipment, etc.

Jay arrived before noon.  Helped Mother re-arrange, vacuum, took us out to lunch.

(Later, one of the men came back to answer questions, and pick up the pictures for the video at the Memorial Service.)  We started making phone calls, going through Dad’s cell phone, wait on calls about the church time availability.  5pm Memorial Service, with 4pm family visit time at Kingwood Bible Church around the corner Saturday, March 9th. (Pastor Larry and my folks attend a church that meets at the Y, but Dad lead the singing at KBC for many years.) Mother tasked Dick Mills to lead the singing of hymns.  Only Pastor Larry is to preach. Mother had to answer a hundred questions from the life/science people on whatall Dad had been given, vitamins and prescriptions.  After the body is cremated, ashes will be taken to Illinois to where his headstone waits in the spring—better weather.

Memorials (no flowers) go to:  Jack Young Benefit fund for Emily Young at any Wells Fargo 4080.  Memorial Service to be held at: Kingwood Bible Church,3610 West Lake Houston,Kingwood, TX 77345 

Here is Pastor Tommy Nelson's comment from my email telling him about the last sermon Dad heard: 


There can be no greater honor for a pastor than to be the last words from earth before a saint enters into the presence. He went victorious into a glorious reception... we have a mansion in the heavenlies.

Press On,

Tommy Nelson
Senior Pastor
Denton Bible Church
Equipping the Saints for the Work of the Ministry
2300 E. University Drive
Denton, TX 76209


Subject: your sermon last Sunday was the last one Dad heard

Dear Pastor Tommy Nelson,
My husband and I enjoy listening to your sermons online. I spent a week near Houston with my parents last week as my Dad was dying of liver failure. He has been a strong Christian for 40 years. I was helping my Mother at his deathbed, and yours was the last sermon he heard this side of heaven! Your sermon of Sunday, 3-3-13, which is jam packed with so much---I have had to listen to it four times, and I don't think I have it all. wow. My Dad was breathing rapidly about 4am, and I set your sermon going on his laptop and at the end, the online audio cuts off before you say, Amen, but I noticed my Dad's breathing was getting shallower, softer and spaced out. I told my Mother, I think he is going...and we watched him take his last breaths. wow. so peaceful. an answer to prayer! Dad just slipped away to heaven home when you were finished speaking. How polite! My Dad's name is Max Howe. He would turn 78 in May.
I just thought you'd like to know. Thank you for your faithfulness. Your sermon was such a comfort! Love, Joyce Williamson

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