Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saying Goodbye to Dad Part 2

Dad stayed in the Cardiac ICU unit for several days, getting test after test with no improvement. We continued to stay in the room, trying to communicate with him, talking with doctor after doctor who gave us pretty much the same prognosis. He was as good as he would ever be. We were faced with either taking him off the ventilator, or sending him to one of two nursing homes in the state that could even care for him. The nearest would be two hours away from us, and they would have to put in a trach and he would basically remain in this vegetative state for the remainder of his days. Within seven days of being put in the hospital, that decision would be made for us. If we chose not to take him off the ventilator, then they would trach him and transport him to a facility that would care for him. Regardless of the seeming hopelessness of the situation, it is never easy to face such harsh realities. It was nearing the weekend, and Mom looked at me and said, I will not make any decision until after the weekend. Go to Columbia and get your partial move done and then we will deal with this when you get back. So, we left for Columbia, and came back and had unloaded a good portion of our furniture and things in our rental home first thing Monday morning. We were exhausted and spent, both physically and emotionally. It was as if we were watching someone else go through the motions and not ourselves. Then Jonathan had to turn right around and go back to SC to meet the movers that would be loading up the rest of our things to move to Fayetteville. He took the boys with him, and I kept the girls with me. Then Mom and I took turns spending time at the hospital, and watching the children. Jonathan's parents were so kind to meet him in SC to help us out on that end. Even in the midst of tragedy, God still provides...and He provided greatly in our time of need through their help. We were both extremely thankful for their assistance. But, it was while Jonathan was gone that the decision about Dad finally was made. Mom was at peace with taking him off the ventilator. She knew in her heart that he would not want to live this way...and she had been told by every doctor that there was nothing more that could be done for him. It was sinking in that he wouldn't be with us much longer. We rarely slept and had difficulties eating. It was on a Thursday that the papers were signed to take Dad off the ventilator. Mom said her good-byes to Dad, and could not bear to see him pass. She came back home and told me if I wanted to say goodbye that I needed to get to the hospital. I don't know if Dad heard anything we said. Only God knows that. His medical doctor said we like to think so, but because he only had brain stem function, that it was extremely unlikely. Regardless, I knew I just had to be there with him when he passed. I just didn't want him to be alone. We all handle our grief in different ways. This has taught me never to judge someone else because of how they handle their grief. Mom had shown Dad her love and care for him his whole life. She had faithfully stuck by him through thick and thin. He knew that and she knew that. She was not emotionally ready to handle seeing him past. I am totally fine with that. But, for some reason, I just felt it was my duty to be there. So, for the next two days and nights, I spent them almost exclusively by Dad's side. When they took him off the ventilator, he was moved to a hospice unit in the hospital. He had a beautiful Christian nurse that came and checked on the both of us often. All the nurses were so kind and helpful. They were there to ease any discomfort Dad might have, and to help me in any way they could. We got him moved early evening on Thursday, but it wasn't until early Saturday morning about 1:25 am that Dad passed away. I remember hearing his breathing getting more and more labored. The color drained from his face. He was leaving us for good. I was so exhausted...after days and days of little if no sleep. But, I remember just thinking...don't fall asleep. He's not going to be with you much longer. There was a pull out type bed there and I tried to make myself as comfortable as possible. I laid down, rested my eyes and felt myself drifting off. I asked God to please let me be awake with him when he passed. I talked with him. I quoted scriptures to him. I cried. I remember wishing so very much that Jonathan could be there. But, God kept reminding me in that ever still small voice, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." I felt myself drifting off to sleep, and that's when Dad made a different sound. I looked up, went to his bed side...reminded him how much we all loved him. I told him to cling to Christ. Then, his breathing became more like gasps...the gasps became further apart. One last breath and I knew it was almost over. I watched his pulse from his neck get weaker and weaker, until it stopped altogether. I stood there, immobile for a while. The quiet finality of is so impossible to describe. I called the nurse. She confirmed what I already knew...that he indeed was dead. Then she hugged me and all the emotion that had laid bottled up inside me for the past two days came flooding like a torrent. I wept. The walk to the parking lot that evening was so surreal. I was leaving my father for good, and heading to my mother to tell her Dad was gone. She was up waiting...and of course knew as soon as I came home. She knew I would not have left otherwise. I am so glad that the last thing I told my father that Sunday was that I loved him. I am glad that I was there with him when he left this world. I am thankful that my God has conquered this last enemy death and that for a Christian, this is truly as bad as it gets. I hope I will always remember the lessons learned here...we are not promised is all we have...and as Stephen Olford's father summed it up so perfectly. "Only one live, so soon it will pass. Only what's done for Christ will last." Make it a point to live everyday as though it may be your last. Don't forget to tell those around you how much you love them. Don't put off tomorrow those acts of kindness you can do today. Live for eternity, because this life is so short compared to what eternity holds for us. May Christ bless you richly.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Saying Goodbye to Dad Part 1

It has been a while since I wrote last on the family blog. So much has happened in our lives in just a short time. The greatest challenge by far lately, has been the death of my father. I remember so vividly leaving his home on a Sunday, telling him that in just two days we would be right back again, moving into our new home and starting our lives closer to him and Mom. He chuckled, and told me not to work too hard. I kissed him, told him I loved him, turned to leave...never dreaming that this would be the last time I would ever see him smile, or laugh, or talk to me about the Carolina Tarheels, or see him light up when his grandchildren walked in the room. So quickly, and all that was an instant, my life was changed forever. My father has been very sick for years. I had gotten honest, plain talk from his family doctor, his heart doctor, etc. I always knew Dad could leave this world at any minute. I was so keenly aware of it, that every time I told him good-bye, the thought that came into my mind was this may be the last time you see your father. That is, everytime except this particular Sunday. Strange, isn't it? We were in the process of moving. We had gone to my parents several times, bringing items to store in their home until we moved...getting the other house ready, etc. We had talked with my parents about them coming over to our new house and eating out on the deck...about being able to see the kids on a regular basis...about being there to help them when they needed it. I was so happy that we were coming here while Dad was we could be there when may parents needed us most. Hopefully his last years would be spend with his grandchildren that he loved so much. It was God's timing that we came here just now, and I knew it. Little however, did I know that is wasn't for my father I would be coming, but my mother instead.

We left their home on Sunday, and on Monday morning we had a Uhaul scheduled to pick up so we could move some of our things to Fayetteville. That morning Jonathan got up early, heard my cell phone and then picked up to hear a voicemail from Mom, crying, telling me to please call her. Jon woke me up and said I needed to call my mother. I knew something was wrong. I listened to her voicemail, but oddly enough...that one day, didn't even think it could be Dad. I just said goodbye to him yesterday, there on the couch, smiling at me. I thought it might be someone else she was close to...another family member. When I called her, the EMT's were there trying to revive him. She told me she thought he was gone. My heart sank into my stomach. I felt utter shock mingled with overwhelming helplessness. I told her we would be there as soon as we could. We finalized things at the house and packed as quickly as we could for the seven of us and headed from Columbia, SC to Fayetteville. I don't remember much about the drive except that it seemed twice as long. Jon kept the children at the house while I went to the hospital. Dad had been revived, but it had taken the EMT's at least four minutes to bring him back. They suspected he had been losing oxygen for some 50 minutes. The prognosis was not good. He was taken to a room on the Cardiac ICU unit. The next days seem a blur. We kept getting reports from the doctor's that there was no hope...he only had brain stem let him go. But neither Mom nor I were ready for that. I don't know that anyone really is. I know my God is in the miracle business...I just wanted to make sure this was not a miracle He was planning to perform. We both needed to feel okay about this. Dad had never said what he would want if he found himself hooked to machines. Those were things he never talked about. I knew what song he wanted sang at his funeral...but never talk such as this. Having lived with him though, both Mom and I knew he hated the thought of not being able to do things on his own. He was having such a problem coping with the idea that he may be reduced to a wheelchair soon because of his bad knee and weak legs. He had been active all his life. Playing ball and coaching ball was his love. He would not have wanted to be reduced to a vegetative state...we felt sure of that. With this looming decision staring us in the face, life still went on. People still laughed outside his room, plans were still made, my children still needed to be taken care of, the Army still said we had to move by a certain just seemed too overwhelming, just for a brief moment...couldn't life just stop? It is at times like this finding my foundation in Christ is so crucial. Although my emotions were so seared and numb, I knew He was there. He had conquered this last enemy called death, and He would somehow see those of us who would be left behind to mourn, the way out of this seeming darkness. I didn't understand His timing, but it is not always my place to understand. As His child, it is my place to believe, to trust, that although I do not always understand, His Word remains ever faithful and true. To believe that "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." (Rom. 8:28) These are the times of faith testing...and it is not an easy thing.
I will continue this thread on later posts...more for me than anyone reading it. But, if it used for good to help anyone else, praise God for it. God bless you dear friends and family.