On Sunday, September 23, 2012, I was happy to be home. In the previous three weeks, my husband had been in the hospital twice and in a nursing home for a week. During that time, our helper Betsy Gonzales supervised modifications to the house and lined up round-the-clock care so Jack could be at home.
We had arrived home Wednesday evening and had been interviewed and accepted into hospice the next day. Hospice workers were in and out, introducing themselves, bringing medicine and supplies, and setting up schedules.
Among the materials provided by the hospice agency was a little booklet about the dying process. Based on the descriptions of the various stages, Jack was four or more months from the end of his life.
Then late Saturday afternoon, he exhibited an action that was listed as occurring in the last two or three days of life: he suddenly wanted to do something he hadn’t been able to do for some time. My sister Nancy Nicholson described what happened:
Jack turned to Lillie and said, “Let’s go out for enchiladas.” Jack hadn’t been able to sit up, much less go out, so Lillie suggested they send me to pick up enchiladas and bring them home. Jack started putting his legs off the side of the bed and insisted he wanted to go out. Lillie said she would much rather eat at home. Finally she convinced Jack, and off I went to Taco Cabana. When I got back to the house, I mixed his next dose of Ativan in a few bites of enchilada before taking the box to Lillie in the bedroom. She fed Jack the first bite, and he said, “Oh, that’s good.” When she lifted the spoon with the next bite, he shook his head and kept his mouth closed. Lillie reminded him he had wanted enchiladas, and he finally ate the second bite. But when she tried to give him another bite, he asked, “Why am I eating enchiladas?” Before either of us could answer, he said, “Oh, I asked for enchiladas.” He shook his head and said, “I don’t want enchiladas … I want enchiladas.” He refused another bite. “I don’t want enchiladas,” he said. “I want enchiladas.”
We kept trying to get him to eat a few more bites, and he kept saying, “I don’t want enchiladas. I want enchiladas.” I whispered to Lillie that I was ready to eat the enchiladas with the Ativan!
Those two bites of enchiladas turned out to be Jack’s last meal. (excerpt from Jack Stories: Favorite Memories of Jack Jordan Ammann Jr)
Jack soon went to sleep and slept through the night. The next morning, Nancy was in the kitchen while I took a shower. When I got out of the shower, I heard a strange noise and realized it was Jack breathing heavily. I ran into the bedroom and called Nancy. By that time, his breathing was shallow. The hospice nurse had instructed us to call them if anything changed, so we called and described his breathing. The person answering the phone said he would send a nurse. A few minutes later, the nurse called to tell us to give him a dose of morphine, which stabilized breathing as well as eased pain. Nancy picked up the bottle of morphine, removed the lid, and measured out a dose. She held the dropper over Jack’s mouth to give him the medication, then said, “Lillie, he’s not breathing.”
Peacefully and quietly, Jack had gone home to the Lord.
A short time and a few phone calls later, the house was filled with family, church family members, and friends. As we waited for the hospice nurse to arrive to pronounce Jack dead and after that for the funeral home to pick up his body, we gathered around Jack’s bed and shared favorite memories. When our priest, Father Chip Harper, arrived after the second church service, I greeted him and invited him to come back to the bedroom where we were telling stories about Jack. “Jack stories! I love them,” said Father Chip.
That was the beginning of Jack Stories: Favorite Memories of Jack Jordan Ammann Jr. I gathered stories about Jack at the viewing, at the reception following the funeral, and by personal contact with people–especially those out of town–who had been unable to attend the funeral. I added stories Jack told about himself and my stories (most of which had been previously posted here).
The final story in the book describes Jack’s final farewell to me:
I dreamed that I was standing at the kitchen sink. Something caught my attention and caused me to look over my shoulder. There stood Jack—young, healthy, and strong with a huge smile. He radiated pure joy. Suddenly I was in bed and Jack was standing over me, smiling and handsome and oh-so-happy.He never moved or said a word, but his smile and radiant joy said it all.
How can I be sad when he is so filled with joy!