Journey to the Next Life
Spending my Dad’s last days with him
I spent three weeks in Honolulu taking care of my dying father.
It was a blessing that I will never forget and absolute torture that I wish had never happened.
Dad had various health problems over the years. From diabetes to quadruple bypass surgery to cataracts to failing kidneys.
He spent a good 17 years fighting to live and managed to live life to its fullest during that time.
The following is a three-week account of my time in Honolulu. I kept a journal during the experience, so what you’re about to read are my thoughts while everything was happening.
This is raw, unedited, unfiltered me.
If you’ve been a caregiver for a sick family member, I’m sure you’ll be able to relate. If you’re currently going through it, I hope this helps you realize that you’re not alone.
So, without further ado:
Friday, May 16, 2015
Here on Dad’s journey to the next life. He was in and out of consciousness and talking to imaginary people this morning. This evening as soon as Boaz came over he was completely lucid and with it.
Recalled the story of when I moved from Lindbergh Boulevard to South Avenue. The friend who was supposed to help me move bailed on me. Dad came to my rescue even though he wasn’t in good enough physical shape to really do it. He risked his health to help me move. This is why I have absolutely no problem becoming exhausted just helping him be comfortable.
I’ve been here since Wednesday. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. I don’t even have any idea of what the next five minutes will bring. And that’s okay. Because I’m here with Mom and Boaz and most importantly Dad.
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Laying down in bed next to Dad’s hospital bed while Ma showers and he listens to NPR.
Thinking about Thursday morning. I was at the hospital waiting for hospice to check him out and put him in their transport. Dad wanted to get out of the hospital room. The nurses got him in a wheelchair, and I wheeled him down to the lobby.
We just sat next to each other and watched people walk by. Dad was happy to be out of the room. I cried quietly. I didn’t want him to be distracted from people-watching since he had been isolated except for nurses, doctors, and Ma for so long.
So, I cried quietly. It had hit me that I was going to lose him. Not sure when, not sure how. However, an incurable form of leukemia combined with kidneys that don’t work without dialysis assures me that it’s only a matter of time.
Once hospice told me they were ready for him, I quickly cleaned myself up and brought him upstairs so that they could check him out and get us in the van to go home.
Waiting for Dad’s meds. Apparently the form of insulin that was prescribed isn’t covered by his insurance. So I’m here at Walmart while they’re on the phone with the doctor trying to get a prescription for another form of insulin that is covered by his insurance.
Getting Dad what he needs, just for basic care, can be a huge pain in the ass. Thankfully Boaz went shopping for food and supplies.
Exhausted and operating on one quarter of a tank. Going to try and nap and get back to full strength.
Mom just came in and told me that Dad is developing delusions around what he’s seeing and hearing and wants her to look something up to see if it’s possible.
Son of a bitch.
He has been hallucinating and talking to his hallucinations. Developing delusions is something new. This can’t be good.
Maybe it’s just another stage of decline. Can I reasonably expect that any sign of improvement won’t be met by even larger decline?
The most brilliant, practical, centered person I’ve ever met is having hallucinations and developing delusions.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Took a good nap and went out to dinner with Boaz. Had a really nice time with him.
Before we went out to dinner, we prepped the dialysis machine for Dad to hook himself up to it later. He asked me to come in when it was time to install the cartridge and connect all the tubes except the one to his catheter. He would connect that himself later when he was ready.
This was my second time connecting everything. The first time, I did it really slowly because I was afraid of screwing something up. Not something you want to do on a dialysis machine.
This time I was more free-flowing but didn’t remember everything. So I asked Dad questions as I went along. That’s how I always learned with him ever since I was a kid. He seemed irritated by my questions this time, as if I wasn’t thinking in the way that he wanted me to think.
He’s been irritated by other people asking him questions lately, so that might’ve been just an extension of that.
In any case, I need to learn how to expertly handle the cartridge so that I don’t have to go through the irritation exercise with him again. But more importantly, if he loses his mind completely, and he might at this rate, he won’t be able to help me anyway.
He may express his desire to continue dialysis even if he loses his mind. Or Ma might make that decision on his behalf. Either way, I’ll still be in charge of the cartridge and connecting all the hoses. The ones that put the fluid into his body, take other stuff out, and drain the excess into the toilet.
You know, the important stuff.
I am now helping to keep alive the man who gave me life. If that isn’t a circle of life, I don’t know what is.
The good news is: I’m up for the job.
Dad kept me and Ma up all night. He is becoming increasingly delirious and agitated. It’s still him in there, just with ridiculousness.
Not just benign ridiculousness; some scary stuff too. He has a catheter in his stomach for the dialysis machine to hook into him. Either the hose from the machine needs to be connected or the cap has to be on the catheter. He can never have an open catheter end.
If something airborne gets in there, it can get into his stomach and cause an infection.
He hasn’t actually opened his catheter yet, but he’s been playing with it more as his delirium has worsened. I’m afraid he’s going to open it without us knowing. Who knows what the hell can get inside his system if that happens.
Either nature needs to take its course quickly, or we need to medicate him or take some sort of action that we haven’t taken yet.
Got to nap for a while. Felt good. Still exhausted.
Ma thinks the delirium and weird stuff in his head comes from all these stories that he’s creating with his imagination. In many of these stories, he’s trying to solve a problem. Some of these stories come from separate real life instances that he’s combining as if they happened together.
Since he’s worried about me and Ma being ok after he’s gone, he might be trying to solve certain problems so that we’ll be ok.
I hope we can convince him that we’ll be ok after he’s gone. We have everything we need to go on without him. It’ll feel terrible losing him, but life will go on.
Boaz is cooking up tilapia and already made a Moroccan salad. Glad to have him busy in the kitchen so that we don’t have to be.
Tried taking Dad’s blood sugar level with a new contraption that we got. We got his blood, but the test strip refused to register it, even though it registered Ma’s just fine when she tested it on herself.
Sitting with him now while the food is finishing cooking. Still tired but happy to be here with him.
Letting Ma get some sleep. Boaz and I are watching Dad for the night. Boaz is cleaning up in the kitchen. I’m sitting with Dad talking to him and otherwise listening to his rambling nonsense and enjoying his brief moments of silence.
I teared up during one of his moments of complete delirious nonsense. I’m afraid I’ve lost him forever. I have no idea who this person is.
Monday, May 18, 2015
Dad has stopped talking. He is seemingly asleep, but his cough has gotten much worse. Boaz explained that fluid in the lungs is a sign that death is close. I did some quick web research on it, and Dad is displaying those symptoms.
We’ll see what the next few days, or hours, or minutes bring. Whenever it happens, I hope it goes as quickly as it should and without suffering.
The hospice nurse looked at Dad today. Based on the severity of his decline she thinks he only has hours or days left. He looks in really rough shape and has basically stopped talking. Ma and I have no reason to disagree with her assessment.
Dropped off Boaz at the airport and picked up Joel and Diane. They’ve been friends with Dad for 46 years. This is really tough on them.
I find myself feeling bad for others missing out on him more than I do myself. Ma said that I should feel bad for myself that I’m losing Dad at such a young age. I can’t bring myself to feel bad about anything. I feel incredibly lucky.
I’ve really been kicking ass in my 30s. I’m a much better, more confident person. I’ve handled my divorce really well. I’m ready to take over the world.
I’m not consciously trying to emulate Dad, but I find I’m becoming much more like him in my old age.
I think there’s a correlation between my kicking ass and becoming more like him. Actually, this is causation, not just correlation.
Thanks Pop. I love you for giving me that incredible gift.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Going to try working for a few hours this morning. This will help me conserve the amount of paid time off I have to use. Plus, while Dad’s morning nurses take care of him, there’s no point in me just sitting around.
Got a good night’s sleep, so hopefully I’ll be productive during those few hours at work. Hoping to get a sense of normalcy from it since I’ve been living in the Twilight Zone for almost a week.
Dad has started talking again, but it’s mostly coming out as mumbles. He’s responding to us in a way that shows us that he is lucid and with it. However, it’s much harder for us to understand what he’s saying. I wonder if he’s become too weak to speak clearly.
When we ask him “yes or no” questions, he’s able to nod and give audible signs of agreement and disagreement. At least we can understand him then and be of help to him.
At this stage, it’s a comfort issue. He has temperature swings where one minute he’s hot and the next minute he’s cold. We’ll try to keep him comfortable to the best of our ability.
The hospice nurses are all excellent. The agency we’re using to fill in the hospice nurse’s gaps are sending us, on average, five incompetent people for every competent one. They’re not bad people. They’re just wrong for the job. It’s the agency’s fault for sending them over.
We’re paying extra so that he has daily care, twice a day. Good care. Not care where we have to help the nurse with every single little thing.
Moving Dad around is the worst. We’re not good at doing it without making him uncomfortable. Why should we have to move him around much at all, aside from readjusting him in bed every now and then???
Ma and I really don’t want to have to deal with incompetent nurses on top of dealing with a dying Dad.
Looked at the “impending death” list that hospice provided. Once I was able to check off the fifth item on the list, I said “fuck it, enough” but kept reading anyway for some reason.
The amount of oxygen he’s getting is dropping, his finger tips are turning purple, and he has symptoms of apnea.
Any day now.
The rabbi came by and discussed options for having a Jewish service for him. Having a service while being cremated instead of buried isn’t typical. Nobody could ever accuse us of being typical.
We’ll have a small gathering, hopefully at a friend’s house.
The rabbi also said a prayer with us at Dad’s bedside. My parents are good Jewish atheists, and I’m a good Jewish agnostic, but it was strangely comforting.
I guess I just took it in the way that it was intended. To be comforting.
Major insight I just had.
I wasn’t sure why I felt worse for others losing him than I did myself. I feel more at peace with it than I expected myself to feel. I feel worse for others missing out on him than I do myself.
I now understand why.
I asked the Whatsapp chat group with all my aunts, uncles, and cousins from Ma’s side to tell me their favorite memories of Dad. Many of them involved him teaching them things and giving them advice.
Because they have succeeded at certain things due to his help, he lives on in all of them.
However, every one of them has gotten only a fraction of the advice, teaching, and guidance that I have gotten. I’ve had the benefit of being his son.
I realize that I have become everything he has taught me. I have become the man that he taught me how to become. I have become the teacher, mentor, protector, and friend that he was.
It’s an honor for me to be that.
This is why I feel bad for everyone else. Because they’re going to miss out on more guidance, love, and friendship from him. He had so much more of all of that to give.
I’ll miss out on it too. But I’ve become better than the person I ever hoped I could be. With his help.
Dad, I can never thank you enough for that. I am truly sorry to see you leaving us, but I am more than at peace with it.
I am honoring your name and making you proud just by doing what I do every single day.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Didn’t feel the need to journal yesterday. Just lived in the moment and enjoyed having competent nurses to take care of Dad.
Joel and Diane left yesterday. Glad they got to say goodbye to Dad.
We told Dad we were ordering pizza. Even though eating has become harder for him, he still wanted a sausage, green pepper, and cheese sub. What Dad wants, Dad gets. We cut it up for him, and he ate it. He thought it was only so-so.
His oxygen levels drop about ten points per day. Yesterday it was at 72. A normal person’s oxygen is somewhere north of 100, I think.
Plus his fingers are turning purple. Another sign of lack of oxygen.
We have enough signs that his organs are starting to shut down. I’ll miss him terribly, but I feel incredibly lucky that he’s my Dad.
Friday, May 22, 2015
Picked up Aunt Debbie from the airport last night. She’s staying with us until Tuesday. She’s a nurse, so while we don’t plan on putting her to work all the time, I know she’ll be helpful to us when we need it.
Dad knows that he’s dying, but he thinks Ma is dying too. He asked her this morning “are we dead yet?” I don’t think we’re going to tell him that he’s the only one who’s dying. If thinking that she’s coming with him will help him let go, then why should we get in his way?
He didn’t eat or drink anything yesterday. We haven’t been giving him his meds because there’s no point. We’ve kept him on dialysis because he hasn’t told us to stop yet. If he does, then we’ll stop.
His fingers are showing telltale signs of approaching death. More of his fingers are turning purple due to lack of oxygen. You can’t take his oxygen level unless you warm his fingers up for five minutes. You can’t take blood from his fingers to measure his blood sugar because there’s no blood left there.
And so we wait for his passing and continue making sure he has the best care in the meantime.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Dad is getting even weaker now. He could barely swallow water. Whatever meds we give him will have to be in liquid form.
As his weakness has increased, so has his difficulty speaking. He’s so weak now that he mumbles quietly. The only time I can really understand him is when he’s irritated. That seems to give him a boost of energy to talk more clearly.
His weakness has increased so much that he has a much harder time coughing up the crap in his lungs. It gets stuck in his throat. We’ve given him oxygen to help with his breathing, and hopefully the next nurse that comes over can help suction the gunk out.
He’s becoming more detached, which from what I understand is part of the death process. Ma is terrified that he’ll eventually stop saying her name or calling for her. I think he might need to do that in order to let go.
However, Ma’s relationship with him is much different than mine, so she’s much more likely to feel how she does than I am.
That’s how Ma feels. That’s how I feel.
Dad is still physically with us, but he’s not really there anymore. He’s lost his spark. Instead, we’re taking care of someone who’s miserable because he’s bedridden, can’t do anything for himself, and doesn’t have the strength to speak in a way we can understand.
We are trapped taking care of a miserable body that once contained Dad.
I hope this doesn’t last much longer. For his sake so he doesn’t continue suffering, but also for ours so we don’t either.
He hasn’t eaten or drank anything in the last two days. That might be the first major sign that the end is near.
Sunday, May 24, 2015
Dad is much sleepier today. Very lethargic and not awake very much except to try and cough up more gunk.
He is really stiff, and any attempt to move his head or other parts of his body causes him discomfort.
We’ve been giving him meds to keep him comfortable, including for pain and a decongestant. He’s also on oxygen, which has helped him breathe.
His apnea is still as strong as ever. At one point Aunt Debbie calculated nine breaths per minute. The low end for a normal person is between 16 and 20.
He’s still a bit restless at times but is much more peaceful at the moment.
I hope this is the beginning of the end. If he will never get better, and if his condition will never improve, I would rather see him go peacefully and easily.
Having entertainment is nice. Dad’s nurse for tonight is a Tongan Samoan Puerto Rican. That last nationality is not something you find often in Hawaii.
She’s hood with a great sense of humor and is not afraid to use it.
A strong, funny personality is a nice change of pace.
Monday, May 25, 2015
Last week, the nurse said Dad had only hours or days to live.
It’s after 6am here, and I just heard Dad cough up more gunk. He’s still hanging on.
It’s been a roller coaster anticipating his death. I anticipated it when his fingers turned more and more purple due to lack of oxygen. Now his fingers are a normal color again.
I anticipated it when he asked me to give his passport to a person he was seeing that none of us could see, and then told me it was time to go. I told everyone to come in so we could say goodbye.
An hour later, he told us he was hungry and wanted a sub from the pizza place we were ordering from. As if nothing had happened.
If you ask anyone who has become a caregiver for a sick and dying loved one if they ever wished death on that family member, they might lie and say no.
If any of them tell the truth and say yes, please understand that it wasn’t out of hatred. I would never want Dad to die if we could get a better result or if his quality of life wasn’t suffering.
His personality, spirit, and spark have been gone for a while. We are now left with a miserable empty vessel to care for.
Whatever is left of him is miserable and suffering. He’s not in any real pain. However, he’s uncomfortable and far too weak to do anything on his own. He becomes weaker every day.
If there’s any way for him to get better at all, including with gaining some strength back, then I trust that he’ll hang on and do that.
If there isn’t any way for him to get better and he simply continues to decline with no hope for improvement, then I hope he passes quickly and painlessly.
This whole thing continues to be a roller coaster emotionally.
Dad didn’t really respond to anyone yesterday.
When his nurse came in this morning and said “Hi Mr. Stitt”, with his eyes still closed, he lifted his hand to wave hello to her.
Some days it looks like he’s on his way out. Other days, he perks up, at least a little bit.
Up and down and up and down and up and down.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
I told my cousin Dad is still alive.
He passed on the word to other relatives, and suddenly the Whatsapp group feels a sense of hope.
They’re religious. They believe in miracles. I know miracles can happen, but they believe in the power of prayer to bring on these miracles.
All I said was that Dad is still alive. That fact alone without any context made them hopeful.
They have no idea what the fuck they’re talking about.
I don’t blame them for it. They had no context. Maybe even if they had context they still wouldn’t understand.
If you’ve never been a caregiver for a sick and dying parent, then you probably don’t understand.
I have no reason to hope. He is taking the path towards death. The little signs are sending mixed messages. The bigger signs are saying “death”.
There is nothing to hope about. There is no reason for optimism. And that’s ok.
I just want it to be over quickly and peacefully. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.
I am exhausted without any reason for hope regarding Dad’s condition.
Ma and I were talking about end of life decisions. She found his advance medical directives, and it basically said not to keep him alive if there was no hope for him to really live. Simply existing is not living.
I have no idea what’s going on in his head. He seems to be sleeping all day. He hasn’t been responsive very often. I have wondered if he is simply existing.
Ma asked me to check to make sure he’s still breathing. I went in, and he was, but he looked like he was about to cry. Ma came in and reassured him that we were there and asked him if there was anything we could do to help him. He didn’t answer, but he stopped looking like he was about to cry.
I guess the reassurance that we were still there was good enough for him.
I’ve had some gut wrenching moments since I’ve been here. Seeing him look like he was about to cry was one of them. He’s really sick with no hope of getting better. Seeing him sad on top of that was really tough to handle.
We’re going to get an assessment from his doctor. We can decide then whether or not we should stop his dialysis.
Whatever we decide, it won’t be emotionally easy.
I’ve been sad, frustrated, and otherwise at the fact that we’re just sitting here waiting for him to die. I’ve felt like we lost him a while ago and now we just have an empty vessel. The fact that he showed emotion and awareness knocked me for a loop. All I wanted to do was reassure him that he’s ok. I let Ma do that for me.
Christ, this sucks. More than anything I’ve ever experienced.
Ma talked to Dad’s doctor this morning. She had talked with him about his advance directive during an appointment in October. He said, and she quoted:
“Pull the plug. I don’t want to be a vegetable.”
Yup. That sounds like Dad.
Even though Dad isn’t very responsive at all, he’s still aware. We decided to ask him if he wants to stop dialysis and gave him the option to squeeze our hand for an affirmative. He squeezed my hand when we asked him if he wanted to stop.
His written advance directive, what he told his doctor, and his hand squeeze all sent the same message.
So, we are going to stop his dialysis starting tonight.
It feels sad to have to do it, but it is absolutely the right thing to do. And, as Aunt Debbie said, it is an act of kindness.
Time to start saying our goodbyes for real.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Add this to the list of things I never imagined I would or could do: draw the right amount of morphine into a dropper and give it to Dad one drop at a time.
Combine that with my newfound ability to hook up several hoses to a dialysis machine, and I could have a career in medicine. Though I don’t think I’d want to do these things for anyone but a loved one.
It might be stupid to go to medical school to only see my loved ones as patients. Not very profitable, I would imagine.
Either way, Dad is hopefully in less pain and discomfort because I made myself figure out how to draw fluid into a syringe and use it as a dropper.
Friday, May 29, 2015
No real change in his condition yesterday. Their friend Mary came over to keep me and Ma company for a while. She’s a great person.
I didn’t even care when they were talking about bridge. They could’ve talked about anything. I was just glad to have someone else in the house to break the monotony and feel more normal.
Dad’s head had come off the pillow this morning, and he looked scrunched up. I lifted up his head while Ma put the pillow back under it.
His head felt like completely dead weight.
He has looked largely lifeless for a while now. I’ve gotten used to that. Picking up his head was the first time he actually felt lifeless.
No resistance. No flinching. No life.
He’s still breathing and his heart is still beating, but that’s about it. He’s otherwise slipping away.
Ma and I decided to stop giving him his weekly Epogen injections. It’s ultimately not going to hurt him, and giving him the injections prevents nature from taking its course.
Two end of life decisions in one week. The Epogen decision was much less of a big deal than the dialysis one. Still, I’m tired.
Dad is still hanging in there. Against all odds. Nothing to eat or drink in over a week. Off of dialysis for three days now.
Still he persists.
He is capable of doing three things now:
- Becoming sore and otherwise in pain or discomfort from being in one position for several hours
- Coughing up fluid
Why the hell is he persisting????
Ma and I have plans to meet up in Vegas for his birthday weekend in September. I joked that at this rate, we’re going to have to figure out how to get him there since he’ll still be around for it.
No food, drink, or dialysis for months? Shouldn’t bother him in the least!
Yet still….waiting for him to die really sucks. Ma is actually starting to enjoy still having him around. I know she’ll understand that I don’t share that feeling.
Right now, the prognosis is that he’ll never get better. He’ll never open his eyes and suddenly start talking to us as if nothing happened. He will simply remain like this until death.
The lack of dialysis should take him out in about one to 1.5 weeks. So, potentially, I only have several days left of this fucking nightmare.
I want this to be over so I can start grieving for real. I want to feel the loss for real. I want to do what I need to do to move on and continue living my life, being grateful for everything he taught me, did for me, and otherwise.
Being stuck in this limbo accomplishes absolutely nothing. It only makes me antsy and makes me want to get the fuck out of here.
Saturday, May 30, 2015
I’ve been wondering if there would come a time where I would start breaking. This is a whole lot of heavy stuff, and it’s been going on for over two weeks now.
Well, I am starting to break.
I’ll be easy enough to put back together. I talked things out with Ma, and she’s going to ask the hospice nurses to stop by every evening to check on Dad and make sure he’s comfortable.
Our regular morning nurse said that Dad is only breathing through a small part of his right lung. The rest of his lungs are filled with fluid.
The thought of him in that condition was more than I could stand.
There isn’t anything they can do to get the fluid out of his lungs. The only thing we can do is give him meds that relax him so that he doesn’t struggle.
I’m happy the hospice nurses will be coming by in the evenings. Even if Ma and I can do what they’d be doing on a functional level, such as administering meds, I still feel better that they’re coming by.
I am a caregiver, and I need help. Because I’ve been going through slow torture for over two weeks, with the man who has been my hero all my life, I need help more than ever.
Sunday, May 31, 2015
Took a nice nap yesterday after writing my last post. It helped me feel better, and the hospice nurses coming regularly in the afternoon has made me feel less overwhelmed. I still feel like I’m in the twilight zone, but I have the help that I need and that’s a great feeling.
Ma and I did a movie night last night. We watched Weekend at Bernie’s and Analyze This. Two of our old favorites. It was great to have those laughs.
Talked with two friends last night who are members of the “lost a parent too young” club. Was great to hear their perspectives and get encouragement from them.
I took a swim this morning at the beach across the street from the apartment. I’ve also gotten back into daily meditation. Ramping up my self care since I definitely need it.
Dad is still hanging on. He looked more peaceful than he has in a while this afternoon. His oxygen level was down to 72. It has been fluctuating between 88 and 97 or so. 72 is pretty damn low. I haven’t seen that low of a reading in several days.
The last time he received dialysis was Tuesday, so almost a week now.
Still waiting for the end.
Dad has looked more comfortable and peaceful today than I’ve seen him during this journey. He hasn’t had anything to eat or drink for about two weeks, so his gut is completely gone and his rib bones are more visible.
He managed to maintain the fat in his face for a while. I noticed today for the first time that his face is now looking thinner too.
At first I thought of it as him wasting away. Now, I just think of it as the next phase of his journey to the next life. As long as he looks comfortable and peaceful, I don’t care how skinny he gets.
You would too if you didn’t eat for two weeks. And not really eat much of anything for a month prior to that.
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Dad passed away this morning. He was pronounced dead at 7:28am. I feel many different things at once.
Right now, I’m taking the time to breathe, which I can finally do. I’m also leaning on my loved ones and talking to them about it.
I have no idea how I’ll process all this in the coming days, weeks, and months. However, I know I’ll be ok no matter what.
I’ll be ok because of what he taught me.
I’ll be ok because he passed his strength on to me.
I’ll be ok because being anything else would be unacceptable to him. And to me.
I can reflect on this whole experience and hold my head high. I stepped the fuck up when it mattered.
To me. To Ma. And to Dad.
I never thought I’d be able to hook him up to a dialysis machine. Or help him back into his briefs when he was too weak to move. Or draw morphine into a small syringe and administer it to him one drop at a time.
I’ve expressed many thoughts in this journal that I never thought I would ever think. I don’t feel guilty about any of them. This was a really high-stress situation, and a nightmare at times.
Also, my actions always spoke louder than my thoughts ever could. I’ve been here and helping in any way I can.
Right before they wheeled him out on the gurney, Ma and I said goodbye to him. I told him something that he has told me thousands of times over my lifetime: “Ya done good.”
And he did.
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Finding Dad dead yesterday morning was a strange yet peaceful and drama-free experience.
My 6am phone alarm went off. I got up to walk over to the table and shut it off. Before I even got to the table, Ma came in and told me that she didn’t think Dad was breathing.
I walked in, and sure enough, he looked lifeless.
It actually looked like his chest was moving one millimeter every 15 seconds. We wondered if he was still alive. Though I thought to myself, breathing that shallowly and infrequently is impossibly unsustainable.
You would think that one of us would have taken a pulse before and know what a pulse feels like, but nope.
Ma called hospice and then had an idea. Whenever we put a foam swab in his mouth, he would reflexively bite down on it. So we did.
And he didn’t.
That was our confirmation until the hospice nurse arrived, checked his heartbeat, and pronounced him dead.
We spent a good amount of time with him that morning. Holding his hand. Feeling his skin become cool to the touch. Talking to him. Saying our goodbyes.
My first clue that he was gone when I first saw him is that his face was yellow. Various body parts had turned slightly purple during this whole process, but his face had remained the same.
Not this time.
The hospice nurse got him cleaned up and dressed in a really nice Tommy Bahama shirt and shorts. Combed his hair and everything. He sure left us in style.
I’m not proud of myself because I stepped up and sacrificed so that I could take care of Dad during his last days.
I’m proud of myself because I felt like I had no other choice.
The fact that I’m burying my father tomorrow is completely incomprehensible to me.
I offered to speak about him at the funeral. I have no idea what I’m going to say. But I know that I’ll figure it out.
And it’ll be good. It’ll be the right words for me to say at the time, and it’ll be just what people need to hear.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
The funeral happened, and everything was ok. People loved my speech. I was honored to be one of his pallbearers. The rabbi conducted a beautiful service.
I felt like the funeral was my final job on my trip here. That job was to give Dad a proper send off.
Ma and I are ok. I suspect we might still have more grieving to do, or at least adjust to life without him. However, I’ve spent the last three weeks grieving and sitting shiva for him. Ma has been doing it for longer.
We will definitely be ok and have so much to look forward to in the future.
Dad — I have missed you since your essence left you, about two weeks or so before you took your last breath. I will always love you and appreciate everything you have done for me.
I know I will always make you proud.