Isn’t life amazing? Actually, let me rephrase that. Isn’t the body amazing? For most of us, we start off in the world crying, using diapers, not able to walk. And for most of us, we leave this world crying, using diapers, not able to walk.
This past August my father passed away. I watched this man who was supposed to be strong, wither away before my eyes. We had switched roles, and as his daughter, I felt I needed to be strong for him. I would have to say it was one of the most painful experiences to watch such a rapid decline. How do you comfort someone who is dying? It’s not like I could say to my dad, “it’s going to be okay”, because no, in fact it wasn’t. He was dying and it sucked!
Those last few weeks I helped my mother care for him and despite the sadness I felt, it was honestly a precious experience. My siblings and I never wanted to prepare for this nor could we have. Yet, despite how close my dad and I were, the last few weeks I felt a stronger bond; realizing at those last moments, feeling helpless and how much I was going to miss him. No. I didn’t want him to go. Just a little bit longer. How selfish and unfair is that? He watched me come into this world with loving arms and I watched him leave this world with loving arms.
As many years as I had worked in healthcare, it really did not prepare me for this. The last time dad was released from the hospital, he came home on hospice. He was given less than 6 months to live with an infection and congestive heart failure. At first he said he was ready to die, then he said he was going to fight it. I will never be sure with aging, that once the body decides to give up, it’s over. We don’t have a choice. It doesn’t matter how healthy our minds are. The stages of death are amazing. My dad went through points of humor, non-responsiveness, frustration, and confusion. He would joke with me in the mornings and by the evenings he couldn’t remember my being there earlier, and clearly his time frame was out-of-order. He quit eating, and shortly thereafter his eyes started to glaze over, his cheeks sunken in. And even though he would still vaguely respond to me with a smile when I spoke to him, murmur the words that he loved me, his body simply and rapidly gave up from that point and he was gone. Just like that.
I must admit, grieving is such a delicate, unpredictable process, yet I suppose it’s necessary to find closure to those we hold ever so dearly to our hearts. One morning I missed work from a chain of events which started at 6 am. My car wouldn’t start, no big deal, the key fob battery had gone dead. My ever so loving husband left work to bring me his. After he had headed back to work and my coffee cup in my lap, I struggled to add his fob to my key ring, only to drop the whole thing into my full cup of coffee, then not realizing, as I panic to scoop it out with my hand, with ALL of the coffee, spilling it all over my clothes, seat, window and down the door of my car. Running late to take my daughter to work (her car wasn’t running at the time), I quickly grabbed some paper towel to clean up the mess. As we left the house toward town, the tears started. My daughter says, “oh my gosh mom, what the heck!”. After dropping her off, I came home, uncontrollably sobbing by now, and called my mom.
I tried to “pull myself together” before work, only to find myself sobbing over breakfast, over changing my coffee drenched clothes, over brushing my teeth and so on. Then once more I tried to “pull myself together” and failed….giving in to the depths of grief and decided to stay home. Later I called the office to ask a favor and I lose it yet once more and can’t hardly speak. Now i’m MAD, stupid, stupid emotions!!! All day Friday and all weekend, a blubbering baby I am. I’ve been waiting for it, I knew it was going to hit me eventually. I had been so good up to this point. Trying to ignore it and keep busy, I cleaned my home and I cried. I kissed the art on the mantel my dad drew me and I cried. I cleaned the garage, I cried. I cried myself to sleep while asking, “did I make him comfortable, did I do enough?” My dogs did not leave my side…heads in my lap. I woke up Sunday morning exhausted, feeling the life sucked out of me, with puffy, dark circled eyes, my body aching from vacuuming, mopping, and dusting like a mad woman then being tightly curled up on the couch for hours. With all of that, I looked forward to work on Monday. The sustainability of business, to bury myself in such a wonderful place, the option to surround myself with those who bring an effortless positive light in my life that I’m ever, EVER so grateful for. I know deep down I will be okay. My family will be okay.
Every day hurts a little less. I won’t ever forget. I won’t ever forget those last moments, the distant look in his brown eyes and how noticeably faded they had appeared. There is not one day that goes by I don’t think of him. It’s the little things…driving by the hardware store, the smell of sawdust. Time will heal. It will.