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 death...it 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 tomorrow...today 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.