It is with great sorrow I must share the news of the death of John Arnold. John had been a long time contributor to the advanced prostate cancer support group. As he approach the end of his life and decided to enter into Hospice Care he, in his typical unselfish way, let us know that he would not withdraw from life or the group. He decided that he would narrate his closing time and share with us his experiences, fears and thoughts. True to his word he did just that. For many of us his willingness to share shone a light on what many of us fear, our last days.
Besides John’s willingness to provide unending support and to demystify this final experience, John’s other major contribution to man kind was his life’s work. John was responsible for developing a major food bank which fed (and still is feeding) so many hungry Americans. His food bank came to serve as the model for many other similar programs.
John was a true, unsung hero, even up to actual death.
JeanneT, John’s wife, took over for John when he was no longer able to communicate with the group. The following was posted by
JeanneT this morning:
To all John’s PCa Malecare friends –
John died this morning at 7:15am. I and my son and daughter-in-law all spent a great deal of the past week in his company, and I believe in the end he died without pain from his bone mets and with his peace of mind and his humor intact.
You all were SO important to John during his struggle with PCa: I thank this group from the bottom of my heart for your friendship, your information, your advice and your encouragement to him. Without this group, John’s life would not have been so long, nor so rich, nor would his ending have been so peaceful or so courageous.
I can give you medical details sometime this week if any of you think you would benefit from that, but right now I’ll just repeat the story of John’s last night for you, which I posted earlier on John’s CaringBridge site:
Last evening, John did not open his eyes for more than fleeting moments at a time, and was hard to wake to awareness even for his pain meds. He was not able to communicate well with us; his efforts were mostly short moan-groans, hoarse and weak. His breathing was more and more labored.
We made our best guesses about what would help his comfort; we turned and repositioned him to relieve his poor body from being in bed so long and to make his breathing easier. Jeff read to him from the Hobbit and from Winnie the Pooh. I was able to give him his late night pain meds and then cuddled up to him to go to sleep.
Around 3am, John’s breathing changed and that woke me; after doing what I could to be sure he wasn’t in pain, I spent a long while just holding his hand, talking to him and chanting to help him pace his breath. Jeff came up and sat with us, holding John’s other hand and telling him that we would miss him but that we would do well, that he had done his work and lived his life well and that we loved him. He was able to answer “I love you, too” and then with a great effort, croaked out “I’m not dead yet!” (a quote from Monty Python and the Holy Grail that has become a comforting silly tension release in our house these past few years).
Jeff and I laughed and cried at that, and John drifted back off to sleep; we all relaxed a little and slept. At 6:45, after I’d gotten up to let the dogs out and come back for a few more minutes in bed, John’s breathing changed yet again. I started stroking him and again chanted to help him pace his breath, but each of his breaths still came harsh and groaning. I changed from chanting to singing, just simple folk songs from his anti-war days: Kumbaya, and Michael Row the Boat Ashore, low and slow. Ever so gradually, his breathing lightened and grew quieter until on a final and completely silent out-breath, he turned his head and was completely still.
I put my head to his chest, but my own pulse sounded so loud and fast in my ear that I could not be sure if his heart was as quiet as his breath. The clock said 7:15. After a few moments holding him, I went down to wake Jeff and Elianna and bring them upstairs. The lamps and the growing light from the windows showed us his face, peaceful and ageless and utterly beautiful. We held his hands and cried and hugged each other, a bit confused by the last tremors of his body, hoping indeed that his suffering was over.
And it was.
I’ll check back in with you in a few days on a new thread to answer questions that you might have about John’s last days in hospice. Right now, I am ready for a few days of quiet and a lot of sleep.
JeanneT, all of John’s family and to the members of the advanced prostate cancer group who became family, I wish my very sincere condolences. The families loss is a loss for the universe.
John, We will miss you. The world was made a better place for your having been apart of it.