But A Whimper

But A Whimper

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

– T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

I have been doing a lot of thinking about Tim’s final thoughts on this earth.

The afternoon before he died, I talked to him on the phone after his therapy appointment. Tim was in pretty good spirits considering everything that had been going on for the previous weeks, and it was a positive phone call. Through my extremely impressive detective skills (aka cleaning up my house the next day), I knew he had gone to our favorite local (vegan friendly) burger joint for lunch. He was not acting like a depressed person who was ready to make a reckless decision… until he made that last reckless decision.

After Tim almost died weeks earlier, I asked him what he thought as it was happening. He told me he went, “Oh shit!” and then passed out. Even at the emergency room that night when he was 100% conscious and clear headed, he kept repeating how he couldn’t believe he did that… how he was such a fuck up… how stupid he was, etc. Days after, he told me he thought something inside of him was broken that he couldn’t fix. At the time, I told him that we would get through this and that past mistakes do not mean that someone is unable to be fixed. I never thought he was broken.


As I process the finality of what has happened, all of this haunts me – especially the”oh shit” last thought before becoming unconscious.

My friend’s husband is an ER doctor, so it’s safe to say he’s been around death way more than the average person. She shared with me what he has told her about dying patients. He said that patients have said things like, “It’s time for me to go,” and that if they make a that kind of statement then he generally can’t bring them back. His experience has shown him that there is a moment of clarity and peace as a person knows that it’s their time to go to the other side.

I also read about a TED talk, where an EMT worker honestly answers the question, “Am I dying?” Again, he talks of peace and acceptance when people realize that it’s time.


Still, I’m haunted by the, “Oh shit.” The other night, I had a little breakdown when I thought more about my ER doc friend’s comments about death versus what I knew about Tim’s situation. He had so much mental turmoil in life, far more than I ever realized. The thought of him leaving this world thinking “What have I done?” or various versions of “I’m so stupid” running through his mind is too much for me to bear. I said out loud that I needed to know he was okay in order to make it through this, and for him to please let me know if he was okay.

I cried for a while. Eventually, I laid down and tried to get some sleep. I called for Pascale, and she came and put her head on the pillow next to me. She sighed deeply as dogs dog, and nuzzled her nose into the cushion a bit. We both fell asleep nose to nose, with my hand on the soft part of her head.


I don’t know if I’ll ever get my sign that Tim is okay. Maybe her gentle comfort was it? Maybe all I’ll ever know is that the dog who was with him is sleeping peacefully without all these thoughts racing through her mind.

34 thoughts on “But A Whimper

  1. Maybe Pascale knows something we don’t. Maybe that’s why she can sleep so easily. I’m glad you have each other.
    Thinking of you.

  2. Maybe this is one of the many times that we can learn a lot from how our dogs approach life. Many of the very painful questions you are asking can’t be answered, but I hope you can make peace with it even without getting concrete answers. I’m glad you have Pascale.

  3. I don’t deal with death often however I have dealt with a lot of drug abusers. I myself abused both alcohol and drugs – I know (knew?) a lot of people who OD’d. I believe that the VAST majority of users who accidentally OD really don’t know that it’s happening, mostly, they drift off and don’t wake up. Maybe that was your dog’s message – the snuggle, the deep breath, the sleep…
    You seem like an incredibly strong lady – I wish you all the best.

  4. Regardless of what Tim was thinking in his last moments, he is at peace now. And he wouldn’t want you to worry about him (easier said than done, I know). Hugs!

  5. I don’t know what to say. I suspect there’s nothing that will make those repetitive thoughts easier but the passage of time and the peace you find with your dogs and your horse. It’s so hard when you’ll just never know – but I would trust the people who have seen so much of this and take their word that even if there as a fleeting “oh shit” it was followed by peace.

  6. Have you ever considered going to see a medium? My mom goes quite often and has told me things that they’ve said to her that are sometimes eerily accurate. Maybe they’re real, maybe they aren’t. But I know that they help make her feel better. Maybe you’ll find the answers you’re looking for or at least a bit of peace of mind. Hugs.

    1. I haven’t. I respect others who might find great comfort in them, and I certainly believe in the possibility for speaking with the dead… but for some reason I’m not comfortable going there. It’s funny, because I hired an animal communicator without a second thought and don’t mind the possibility that it’s bogus but with a situation and loss this great I don’t want anyone facilitating that communication.

      1. That makes total sense to me. I’ve never been. And I don’t know if I’ll ever go because I don’t want to hear something that will affect a future decision.
        I’ve been tossing around the idea of hiring an animal communicator to see what Tucker has to say. I can’t wait to hear about your experience.

  7. From a Jane Kenyon poem:

    “6IN AND OUT

    The dog searches until he finds me
    upstairs, lies down with a clatter
    of elbows, puts his head on my foot.

    Sometimes the sound of his breathing
    saves my life — in and out, in
    and out; a pause, a long sigh. . .”

    Not knowing is the hardest piece of almost anything, I think. I’m glad the pup is there for you, and was there for Tim. Sending love.

  8. At some point in our lives we all have things broken inside us, I think. There’s no way to know if Tim had peaceful thoughts in the moments before losing consciousness, but I believe he is at peace and feeling whole and unbroken now. And it is nice to know he wasn’t alone when he passed, but had the comfort of an animal who is providing that same comfort to you too.

  9. Your way with words lets all of us almost feel what you are feeling. It amazes me when I read your posts. Healing thoughts sent your way.

  10. Keep your head up. Time heals all wounds. I know exactly how you feel about wishing for a sign he was ok. I felt the exact same way when my grandmother passed away. She was told on a Monday she had cancer and by Wed she was at hospice unconscious on morphine and by the weekend she had passed. I didn’t get the chance to talk to her before she got to hospice and I dealt with so much guilt and sadness because of it. I prayed and prayed she would come to me in my dreams and just tell me she was ok. Eventually I came to peace with it and I know she definitely is..even without a sign. Who knows tho, there could have been a sign and I missed it.
    I’m so sorry your having to deal with the pain and sadness that you are. **Hugs**

  11. The “oh shit” time, wasn’t his time though. As heartbreaking as Tim’s death has been for you, you did have the chance to tell him how much you loved him – and you can take comfort in the fact that he knew that when he passed. Not everyone gets that opportunity. Please don’t think I am in any way diminishing how awful / soul crushing / life changing this experience has been for you. Just looking for a shred of silver lining…

    1. You’re absolutely right, and as more time passes and I heal more the chain of events leads me to believe that the first episode was essential to communicate what we needed to before the end. I don’t think you’re diminishing my feelings, because when things are hard sometimes all we can do is look for the silver linings.

  12. It seems like Pascal definitely knows something, and in her own way, was trying to tell you what happened. And that she was right there by his side, like she was by yours. Nose-to-nose, providing comfort and love.


  13. I don’t know what to say other than I know he is in a better place. He is at peace, and he is not suffering. The ones we love never truly leave us, because we will be with them again. I believe that with all my heart. That’s all I can say.

  14. I know the couple of times I’ve thought I was facing death (mainly car accidents or asthma attacks), my thoughts have been “oh shit” and “shit, I can’t believe this. Not yet” quickly followed by “I’ve lived a good life. I’ve loved. I’m loved. I’m good. It’ll be okay.” Maybe not exactly that, but there were layers and underneath was acceptance and just thoughts and love for those possibly left behind. Obviously I didn’t die, so I can’t speak to that. But, maybe that helps. Thoughts are complicated, and I’m sure Tim’s were too.

    It must be so hard not to know. I think that might be one of the hardest parts about losing a loved one. Hugs and love to you, and enjoy those quiet puppy moments. They are good for the soul.

  15. You’re definitely not alone in this – I wondered for a long time if my dad died in fear or pain. In the end, I realized that I believed that no fear or pain would last for him. Fear only lasts until we gain knowledge, and I firmly believe that whatever comes after death, be it heaven, nirvana, resurrection, or just nothing, it confers peace. Pain can be released, too, through understanding and forgiveness, and physical pain is the easiest to release. So I think my dad felt surprise, and then knowledge, and then understanding.

    It sounds like janice has wise words, as well as your doctor friend. I wish you peace, too … but I know it’ll take time.

  16. I can understand why you feel this way. But I doubt he felt anything. Everything it came up that so and so had overdosed on heroine or the bottled up kind B would say “well he didn’t feel a thing.” I use to joke with him that he wasn’t ever allowed to take a pain killer again until he was on his death bed and then I’d load him up and let him slip away that way and he said that would be the perfect way to go.

    Did your husband mean to leave? No.

    Not much consolation but there are a thousand worse ways to go. I use to comfort myself by thinking that if (when) B finally takes too much, he didn’t die in pain and his struggles were finally over. I knew he wouldn’t have meant to leave me, but there was a demon inside of him he could never conquer. Regardless of your religious beliefs, c.s Lewis’s mere Christianity talks about how he believes in this world we’re burdened by our psyche, but that falls away in the after life. I think that’s a good way to look at it. He wasn’t broken.

  17. I am in tears now. I know of that pain a little bit. I remember the call from my grandma telling me that my grandpa had passed in the early morning. He had been unconscious for the past few days from failing organs, but woke up, looked at her and took her last breath. All can picture is fear or sadness in his eyes when I replay the scenario in my head. I haven’t been strong enough to ask my grandma about it, and I feel she would probably shield the truth from me if it was too hard as she knows how fragile I am. I will say though, about a month after his passing, I was having a horrifying nightmare where tunnels lead to darkness and evil in my backyard. I thought my brother, dad and I were doomed as we couldn’t escape, and then my grandpa showed up and saved us. He told me everything was going to be alright. I also find peace in birds (he liked birds) and when songs come on the radio that remind me of him (he taught me all of the best rock n roll). Know that you will find some peace in something. It just might be a little harder to find sometimes. He feels peace.

  18. I had a friend years ago who worked in hospice care part time. She said at the end people so frequently mentioned seeing relatives that had already passed that she felt confident that those who have gone before us were standing there to help us through, if that makes sense. It gave me comfort when loved ones died, to think of them being guided forward by those they cared about.

    Maybe the first time he ODed his thoughts were “oh shit” because he was going to make it, where the second time it would be relatives or loved ones that he’d lost that he’d see/think of, as they stood there with him.

    And I agree with Karen. Dogs just know things that we don’t, and it’s best to trust it.

  19. When my grandfather died, I was holding his hand. He had been having difficulty breathing for weeks and had been sent home from the hospital to die, though none of us were ever really told that. I don’t know how we knew he was about to pass because he had been unconscious for the last 48 hours, but we did. My uncle was on one side of him holding one hand and I was on the other holding the other hand. There was no pain, no suffering. He just took one last breath and was gone. He flew away.

    He was the man I have loved the most in my life, my grandfather who made every dream of mine come true. He visited each of us in the family in dreams afterwards, except for me. I was angry for a long time that he didn’t come back to say one more good-bye, but then again I was the only one of two people who really did get to say good-bye.

    I’ve always felt that he sent me Lily. In every endeavor with her, his presence has always been so strong. He loved horses and was the person who brought them into my life. But I didn’t get to be visited by him until last year, when I woke up from a dream where I had been hanging out with him. We were just hanging out talking like we used to do after I came back home from riding. I had long ago come to terms with his passing and was at peace, but it was a wonderful thing to feel like he had returned for a little while to visit. This May marked 11 years since he passed.

    This is tremendously difficult, especially given the way that Tim left. You will always miss him, but one day you will wake up and you will be okay. It happens slowly, ever so slowly, in such a way that you don’t realize it’s happening and it still seems like forever until it happens, but that day will eventually come when you are at peace.

    I’m glad you have Pascale. <3

  20. I love TS Eliot.

    I wish I had the right words to ease your heart and your worries- I get it- no one wants someone they love to pass away in fear, pain or despair. To be honest I tend to agree with the Physician- I think that there can be peace in the passing. That said, there was a lot of love and joy in your lives together and that counts for far more than a ‘oh shit’ thought at the end. To me a person is not defined by how he died by how he lived. I hope that makes sense.

  21. I have never commented on a blog, I often read yours and I cannot offer any incredible insights. But I can say the love of your dog is precious. At a time in my life when I was devastated by death and a subsequent relationship breakdown, my dear old dog somehow knew I was was at rock bottom. I woke to find him sleeping back to back with me in bed, and I didn’t feel so hopeless anymore. I have to add he had never ever slept in my bed, and he only did it that once in his whole 15 years… One step and one day at a time. Best wishes from Australia

  22. these are all-consuming questions, without any indication that the answer can ever be known. i’m glad that you’re getting comfort both from Pascale and your friends who have insightful experiences to share. and perhaps one day you will get your sign too

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