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By: Mari Nardolillo Dias
“The beat of a heart is constantly moving in an up-and-down motion… The pulse of life is exactly what life is; the monitors depict life as it should be… Life is over when there is a flat line. If we have nowhere to go, no challenges to bring us up, no hills to surmount, no lows to combat the highs, then what is life?
This is life. The ups and downs of the path we are all sent on.” (Blumie Abend)
Alison’s eyes remained laser-focused on her husband, Dick’s, monitors. The heart monitor seemed to reflect the highs and lows of his life, as he struggled to stave off death. The highs, no doubt, reflected the highs of his life – the quintessential loving husband who adored Alison and proud father of his twins. Dick loved life and relished every experience as a gift from God. It’s more difficult to die happy than to die without joy and hope. The lows reflected the battle with death. The other monitors indicated that both his blood pressure and oxygen level continued to drop precipitously. Alison remained on guard, while stroking Dick’s hand, engaged in a one-way conversation as Dick could not speak. It was at that moment that Alison had an epiphany – a high among the lows on the monitor. A wedding vow renewal.
Their daughter crafted a ring with paper clips and tape. Their pastor was in attendance, and as Alison spoke the renewal vows for both of them, her focus moved away from the monitors and on Dick’s face; however, their daughter noticed. The graphs on the monitors morphed into different variations. As Alison spoke the vows, Dick’s blood pressure steadily increased as well as his oxygen levels, which reached 100%. The monitors indicated that the increase was steady and remained high for several hours.
According to Alison, “It was obvious Dick knew what I was saying and I am positive he was comforted. If anyone wonders if their loved ones can hear you – the answer is YES, they can. Even now, as the one year anniversary of his death looms ahead, I am 100% sure Dick felt as though he actively participated in our ceremony… In this case, love did not save him or “conquer all” but I am certain our deep, abiding, unconditional, soul-binding love was God given and eternal.”
Eventually the heart monitor showed a flat line. The highs and lows of life were over. Yet, Alison was able to give Dick his final “high”, with words of love, some paper clips and a piece of tape.
Dr. Mari Dias is a nationally board-certified counselor, holds a Fellow in Thanatology and is certified in both grief counseling and complicated grief. Dias is a Certified death doula, and has a Certificate in Psychological Autopsy.
She is Professor of Clinical Mental Health, Master of Science program, Johnson & Wales University. Dias is the director of GracePointe Grief Center, in North Kingstown, RI. For more information, go to: http://gracepointegrief.com/