So, I haven’t written a blog in a full year. I’ve had a lot of blog ideas, but no action. That was kind of my way of life last year – lots of plans with no action. I planned to work on my budget, lose some weight, write more thank-you notes, find the good, be positive…blah, blah, blah, I didn’t do any of it for any meaningful amount of time. I was (still am?) in a funk. I’ve considered medication, tried meditation, sought relaxation, but ended with frustration. Why? I think I figured it out and I just need to write it down and let it go…
My dad died August 17th, 2013 and I think I’ve finally worked through it. It wasn’t really a surprise event, he’d been sick for a long time; well his body was sick anyway. We were fortunate that he was almost always able to talk. I could write pages and pages about my dad and the awesome conversations and meaningful moments and honest comments and genuine love we shared, but none of those are why losing him was so difficult.
Dad was really sick the Christmas of 2012. I took my family to see him when we came home for the holiday and it was awful. He kept bundling up his blanket and patting it like he was keeping a baby safe. He was mumbling to himself, but couldn’t converse or make any meaningful connection. I went back and sat with dad after the Christmas hoop-la, before heading home. I talked about the kids and their activities and my work and my marriage and some of my best memories. I asked him about death and God and the meaning of life. I apologized for not coming home more and not calling everyday and not doing all the things I thought I should have been doing. Then I promised him I’d make the drive home to see him every Sunday. Then I left.
The next morning my mom called and dad was awake and eating. By the weekend he was better! I went home Sunday to a perfectly typical father. He didn’t remember being sick, didn’t remember Christmas or our conversation or anything about his previous condition. He was back! I went home the next week too…and then never again. Someone had a tournament, someone else had practice and Mike was out of town and friends were coming over – life got in my way, and I allowed it to happen. Dad was better, all was good, back to normal. I don’t know that I can ever regret anything as strongly as I regret my choice to break that promise. I will always struggle with that, but I can accept it, it was my choice.
Fast forward a few months…two strokes in succession and dad was unconscious. Hospice was there, and most of my immediate family. I went home. We talked and laughed and reminisced and ate and watched and cried. Random people came and went. Nurses stopped by. Someone sang Amazing Grace. We ordered pizza, said a prayer, paced, made plans, counted breaths…
(And this is where my breakdown starts...and this is only my take on it – I hesitate to write it down because others don’t share my perspective and I don’t want to stir up emotions for my family that don’t exist for them, but this is my reality and I need to let it go…)
The Hospice worker suggested, several times, that we leave for the night, and said she'd call if anything changed. We looked around at each other, someone said it was a good idea. The nurse explained that in her experience the sick person usually slips away when no one is there, or if people are there, they go when no one is watching. Dad was barely holding on. Then someone said that dad told them he wanted to be alone, and someone else said that he never liked being the center of attention. And somehow, we all said goodbye and walked out. I was numb. It didn’t feel right to me, but I didn't say anything. Thirty (or so) minutes later we got the call that dad had passed. He died alone in the room with someone he didn’t know at all. A tiny part of me wondered if the hospice nurse smothered him (terrible, I know, but it did cross my mind). I’ve heard it is as much a miracle to watch someone leave this world as it is to watch them enter it. I may never know.
Most of my family feels that it was a perfect exit. They know that dad needed us to leave so he could let go. And I accept that a little bit. I understand that my dad loved his family more than anything else and while we were all there laughing and talking and telling stories, it was hard to leave. But, seriously, we just let him go. I struggle because I wish we had sent him off! We could have stood around his bed and prayed the rosary and sent him off with prayer; we could have sat quietly remembering our best memories and sent him off with good thoughts; we could have put hands on him and sent him off with love; we could have gone to the chapel as a family and prayed for his salvation. But we didn’t. We all just left him there to figure it out on his own. And he did. And I know that it’s easy to look back at what you'd do differently, but we would never have left on our own, and we’ll never have the chance to do it again and stay.
My brother snuck rum (I think it was rum) in to dad's room and we had a celebratory drink for dad. I loved that! It was a happy event, he was ready to go; I just wish he went surrounded by family, that’s all.
Death is a funny thing…it affects everyone differently and no one as they expect it will…or at least that’s my experience.