While in Texas running a conference, I received a phone call to let me know that my Uncle Donny, the man who raised me for several years, was in his final days of life. My Uncle had suffered from a rare heart disease and had beat the odds, surviving for two years, proving all of the doctors wrong. His time had come though, and I was across the country, unable to say, "goodbye." Luckly, we landed in Boston and he was still with us. We went straight from the airport to the hospital and arrived to tears and impending grief from my family who warned me that my Uncle was almost gone.
When I entered his room, my heart sank seeing him laying there, struggling to breathe, mouth agape and eyes closed. I sobbed seeing the man who had been like a father to me in his final moments.
At one point, everyone left the room to give me time alone with him. I thanked him for the role that he served in my life during a time when I things were bad for me. My Uncle was rough around the edges and as tough as nails, but I knew his fearful, sensitive heart in a way that few others knew him. He was a loving, gentle soul who taught me how to drive, threw me a surprise, "Sweet 16," party, watched my softball games and cried at my graduation and wedding. He was thrilled when I was pregnant with Devin and he always celebrated any and all TV appearances and successes that our family has had. He was the epitome of a "proud father" and I loved him for that.
He loved Joe like a son and they were so similar. They had the same sense of humor and shared so many memories. Joe respected and loved my uncle. When Joe entered the room, he hugged Uncle D., cried and thanked him for taking care of me and being there for us over the years. He stood at the foot of his bed, sending loving energy to him and closed his eyes, tears streaming down his face. He shared with me that he was picturing Uncle Donny letting go and moving on with peace. Seeing him laying there suffering was so hard, and Joe focused all that he could on supporting him during his final moments with love. I am immensely grateful for my husband for the energetic work he did for my Uncle.
Devin joined me in the room to say goodbye himself to his, "Gruncle" (a word we used jokingly to describe the fact that Uncle D., was like a grandfather to Devin while begin his great-uncle). I hugged my dear uncle and laid my head on his pillow next to his. I could feel fearful energy swirling around him and something within me began speaking words of comfort and love, encouraging him to let go and move on.
I shared with him that it wasn't going to hurt and it was going to be blissful to be finally free of the human body and mind. I let him know that we would all be with him in such a short time and that we would all be okay and he will forever live on with us. I said much more to him, but it will forever be sacred between he and I.
Devin rubbed my back as a spoke gently to my uncle through my tears. Devin has not only witnessed me being a Doula and supporting someone bring life into this world, but he has now witnessed me supporting someone we love and the ending of their physical life. I never realized how similar the energy and role of a Doula is during death as it is during birth. I experienced a continuum of energy and much-needed support that may be missing in our current medical paradigm.
It was a profound moment for me sharing this with my son. It was even more profound to feel called to help my Uncle in this way. I knew what needed to be said and how I could be strong and selfless during this time when he needed me to be in the role of helping him let go. I brought peace to my Uncle and after all he had done for me, it was the best gift that I could have ever given him. I know he was waiting to say, "goodbye," to me before he died. As I spoke into his ear, his thumb rubbed my hand, reminding me that he was indeed able to hear me and feel my presence. I am so, so grateful to have been there with him.
His love will always live on in my heart.
We received the call on our way home that Uncle Donny had passed away after we left the hospital.
I Love You, Uncle D. Thank you - for everything. I could never repay you for all that you did taking care of me. I will miss you so much. I am grateful that we lived your last moments together.
|Donald Armstrong & Dayna Martin|
This was the last photo that I had taken with my Uncle.