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Dingell shares details about husband's last days

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell wrote a heartfelt post Saturday morning in memory of her husband, former U.S. Rep. John Dingell, who died Thursday.

In the long Facebook post, Debbie Dingell shared how she is coping and details of John Dingell's last few days.

John and Debbie Dingell  attend the North American International Auto Show Charity Preview in 2012.

"Sleep is hard," Dingell wrote. "I am wearing one of John’s Michigan sweat shirts, holding another and letting the memories flood me. I was so blessed to have this incredible love affair for so many years."

John Dingell, a Democrat, died at age 92 after battling prostate cancer. He served in Congress for 59 years before retiring four years ago. 

In his last days, John was lucid, visiting with friends and in charge until the end because he wanted everything done his way, Debbie wrote. 

"The chief medical director of hospice met with us last week, and John was simply not ready to say it was time," she wrote. "He had things we wanted to do and a woman he wanted to love. On Monday, he really started having problems walking and we knew we needed help. His 6’3 size to mine or to Christine’s who had stayed with him overnight while I was in session, was simply too much."

She shared memories of Dearborn firefighters constantly attending to John after he accidentally pushed his medical alert button and refusing to get stitches after he fell. She didn't anticipate his passing would come so quickly but said he did have time to speak with former presidents on his last day.

"I thought we would have more time. He spoke to both President Clinton and President Bush his last 24 hours. He was very John Dingell in what he had to say, made them both laugh and gave them very clear serious instructions," she wrote. "Steny Hoyer, his dear friend flew in Wednesday night and Sandy Levin came while there, and they told stories, looked at pictures of old times and got more instructions."

On Tuesday, John asked for a pad of paper and when writing became hard, he asked Debbie to share his thoughts when he passed.

"Thursday morning he kicked me out of the room. He started dictating to Christine, and dictating and dictating. Than he let me take it again. He was pointed, would say woman are you getting this. He had a lot of thoughts he wanted shared. He had proverbs he loved as well. Christine warned me to not think things were ok. She worried his energy would give me false hope. It probably did. I tried to accept where we were, but when you love someone as I do, you always have hopes and prayers."

Debbie wrote that John was talking with her when he died. 

"I had been trying to get him to eat. Chocolate pudding his favorite. He wanted to get up, and he did and than he was gone. Just gone," she wrote. "It is so very hard. Little things just make you cry, the straws I used to get him to drink, the refrigerator full of all his foods I would try to get him to eat. His phone, his iPad with his favorite movies. His bathrobe which I hold."

Debbie said John wrote the letter because he loved America and wanted to make sure all of it understood what a great democracy it is.

More: Dingell shares 'last words for America' indictated commentary

She said he wished people who use harsh rhetoric on social media would "think about whether the message could be shared with less hate, and a gentler tone. And he loved people. He knew we are part of community and that community is the strength of democracy."

She thanked Dearborn firefighters, Chief Joe Murray and Dearborn police and Chief Ron Haddad for staying by her side.

"My community is getting me through the saddest and hardest time of my life. I love him with every ounce of me. I love you John Dingell and he loved all of you and this country," she signed off D2. 

Mass and services

The visitation will be from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn, according to Dingell's office.

But the site of Tuesday's funeral mass for Dingell, a lifelong Catholic, is shifting. It now will be held at the Church of the Divine Child, 1055 North Silvery Lane in Dearborn at 11 a.m, Rep. Dingell's office said late Friday afternoon. The event is open to the public.

No reason was given for the change in location.

Later on Tuesday, Dingell's casket will be flown to Washington, D.C. , where a motorcade will drive it past the U.S. Capitol on the East Plaza. 

A funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., according to Rep. Dingell's office. The Mass is open to the public, followed by a reception at Georgetown University. 

He is set to be interred in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. A planned burial at Arlington suggests that Dingell, who served in World War II, could receive a military funeral with honors. 

Twitter: @SarahRahal_