Days 9 and 10 with Dad (Thursday, April 25 and Friday, April 26, 2013)
With uncle taking the day shift of being with Dad, Richard and I went back to Dad’s assisted living apartment; it’s the only place I knew of where I could get a secure Internet connection for checking email. Well, okay, so my brain is really, really tired. I get that. But, why in the world did I receive an email from Walmart.com for a $10 purchase of skin cream? I didn’t order that, did I? I wouldn’t order anything online away from home when I can’t guarantee security. Hmmm…!
I also received a fraud alert email from American Express that there had been three consecutive charges to Walmart.com all totaling around $300; bless them for their diligence and commitment to excellence.
I immediately called American Express; they canceled my card and would send me a new one. I freaked out…lack of sleep, fear about maybe my computer had been hacked and Dad’s accounts possibly being at stake I needed to find out what happened. I called our computer people, left a long message, and then went back to Hospice.
I told uncle about it and there was a gentleman named John from Dad’s church visiting. I didn’t have time to stay so apologized for rushing in, but it was very nice to meet him. He just seemed like a very nice, genuine person.
He asked me if the pastor had stopped by to see my Dad, I said no. I did speak the pastor on the phone the other day; he said he would call me back within the hour from his cell phone so I could call him if we decide to have a service for Dad. He never called, and, he never went to see Dad either. This pastor was someone Dad talked about all the time as being his friend; they went to the same college and had other things in common.
I left the room, ran into Reluctant Heart and got into a strange conversation where he suggested things but knows NOTHING about computers. I was in a huge hurry and needed to find out about Dad’s accounts. I was looking in the phone book when he suggested Best Buy and their Geek Squad. It would absolutely devastate me if something happened to Dad’s hard earned savings and I somehow had been part of it. OMG!
So, off to Best Buy we went, me and my huge laptop computer and some poor unsuspecting employee behind the desk. I tell him what happened, and that my Dad is on his deathbed, I ask him if there is a secure connection I could get anywhere I am terrified Dad’s accounts may have been harmed. He was gracious and kind with this crazed woman in front of him. They don’t usually do this, but he allowed me to connect via their secure network so I could check things out; Dad’s accounts were unaffected, thank God!
I was concerned about a virus installed or anything like that; he said it’s not likely…so, we didn’t know the cause, but it seemed to be specifically tied to my American Express card.
Greatly relieved, Richard and I grabbed a bite to eat and head back to Hospice. Upon returning I let my uncle know there’s no virus, no key logging software or anything of the malicious sort. Uncle said the Reiki therapist was in and gave Dad a treatment, they checked his vitals before and after and it showed he was more relaxed afterward. How cool is that?
Shortly after, uncle left for his hotel, Richard stayed for a little while and then headed to his motel early.
Alone again with Dad, after an exhausting ordeal, I didn’t know how much more of this I could take. I sat there in the window seat looking outside; my heart was dark and cloudy. This has been one of the most painful events I’ve ever experienced. In my spiritual life, I have been listening to teachings on abiding with the emotions, staying with discomfort, going to the places that scare you. I was at that place, but, also way beyond exhausted.
Richard would be leaving for home first thing tomorrow morning to check on the house and animals, and return Monday or Tuesday. We’d already been gone longer than either of us packed or planned for, and I too, longed for home, my animal family, the quiet, my own bed. Uncle would be leaving the morning of Saturday, April 27th for home too.
Dad’s breathing is far shallower. This is such a strange place to be. I was far more comfortable being by his side years ago in the hospital, watching him improve. Now, I want him to suffer no more and I feel at odds with myself in this very moment. There comes a time when the pain and fear of not wanting a person to leave is overridden by an even more intense pain of not being able to bear seeing them suffer. I made a promise to him I’d stay…
Weary and worn down, jagged pieces in my heart were rubbing together causing nothing but pain. I had seen too much of the unkindness in my own family, too many excuses, and yet, relished the remarkable kindness in the eyes and hearts of staff and strangers. I didn’t know how much longer I could do this but didn’t want Dad to die alone. I had to stay or live with the regret.
Just then, a staff member leaned in the doorway and said, “I have a question for you.”
My numb heart and mind said, “Okay”.
The gentleman said, “These ladies would like to come in and sing for your Dad, is that okay?”
Numbly, I nodded yes.
The three dear ladies gowned up and put gloves on, came in to the room and sang simple choruses like all is well and sweet stanzas of peace. They were gracious, respectful and otherworldly, they thanked ME for letting them come in and sing to my Dad. I think they were angels.
The hardness in my heart melted and I cried at the beauty of what had just been my darkest, most difficult moment. Yes, they must have been angels. They said they extend the same peace to me. I thanked them.
I dried my tears and continued to watch and listen to Dad breathe. I don’t know how much time passed from their singing, but while I watched, I saw Dad with his eyes still closed appear to be talking to someone with whom he was very familiar. I wondered who would be coming for him…
Exhausted, sleep came quickly and easily for me. I had put my earplugs in as I usually do but was awoken around 2am by the nurses being loud. I was mad and sleep deprived! They were making too much noise and I was strangely cold too, I had gone to sleep comfortably warm. (I know they didn’t change the temperature in the room overnight). I sat up on my elbows and looked at Dad as I’d always done.
Just then, a nurse came in and said, “I think he’s passed.”
“Really?” I ask in disbelief.
She said she’d get a second nurse to witness, but yes, she believed he passed away around 2:05 am. I was stunned, sad, and flooded by a myriad of emotions when I realized he was really gone.
The nurse that told me Dad had passed brought in a single electric candle stick she plugged in at the window, I thanked her. The sweetness and thoughtfulness every step along the way touched me deeply.
Not knowing what else to do at the time, I lingered, placed my hand on Dad’s forehead and said, “Bye, Dad.” I was glad for him, but profoundly shocked, empty and sad. I wondered if his spirit lingered in the room before departing, like I’ve heard of many times before.
The nurse asked for time to get him ready and I went into the Living Room, where I called Richard once I gathered my senses. Richard couldn’t sleep and had already left town to go home! He was two cities away; he said he’d turn around, bring oatmeal for me from McDonald’s, and come back to Hospice.
Left to myself, I cried. It’s over. Dad’s suffering is over; ours is just beginning to take a different form.
I thought of a lot of things those first few hours. We think we’ll be surrounded by loved ones when it comes our time to cross over, only because we’ve seen it on TV! Truthfully, I bet it rarely happens. We think of those people who we’ve been faithful to, oh sure they’ll be there for us, but we really don’t know until that moment comes.
Maybe people show up out of guilt because they hadn’t kept in touch with you – a lot more of this path seems to be about them rather than the one dying. Weird, huh?
I got to be with Dad the whole time; I was encouraged to take breaks as much as I needed. I guess this is where PTSD becomes a friend…my heightened state of awareness was actually a good thing. I was getting by on little sleep but I did okay. Everyone was telling me I was doing well (outside of one brother and uncle). This was one of those life moments failure was clearly not an option. This is my Dad!
I stayed because I promised although my stomach was in knots most of the time, and, the physical hurt in my heart was intense. I felt that pain must be normal, because to me, this was severing of a relationship, an ending of an era.
While waiting for Richard to arrive, I wandered in and out of Dad’s room. By now, the candle was the only light in the room, and, he had a beautiful handmade quilt covering him. How beautiful. My eyes could barely believe it. Volunteers, I’d imagine, sewed the masterpiece that covered his lifeless body. Love in the beginning, love in the middle, love in the end.
I decided it was about time Richard should arrive, so left to get some coffee in the family kitchen and just wait, try to wake up, but wait.
I then made the phone call everyone dreads. I phoned Rebel Heart first, Religious Heart (left a message on his cell phone), and then Reluctant Heart. I thought our uncle might wish to see Dad so asked the nurses to please wait a little while before Dad is moved from Hospice. It turned out I was wrong, none of my local family wished to see Dad.
With everything going on, it didn’t dawn on me how off base Rebel Heart’s words were about Dad’s will when we spoke in the wee hours of Friday morning. He’d asked if we all get together and the attorney reads the will. I laughed and said I think that only happens on TV!
With those phone calls done, I had to decide what funeral home the nurses should call to come get Dad. I went with the one he’d purchased a cemetery lot for himself. I thanked the Hospice staff, Richard and I left to get something to eat. It was over. Dad was free.
We decided I would go back home with Richard, I was past due needing a break, my brain was thoroughly fried, and there wasn’t much we could do there with it being the weekend. I spoke with the Funeral Director over the phone during our drive back and answered questions. I also let my family know we were going home.
We did the delightfully uneventful and blissfully quiet 12-hour drive back home. It is good to be home, out of the stress, traffic, unfortunate attitudes, judgment, etc.
I stood outside with the horses and just listened…the loudest sound here is not traffic, but the birds singing, the wind, and the faint sound of traffic a ways away. It’s good to be home. I’d imagine Dad feels the same way now too.