Sorry this is so long. I don’t mean to be selfish, but today I’m writing for me, not anyone else. If you want to know what my soul looks like, here you go.
Monday, my father called my sister and they talked. He was at the rehab hospital; he knew he wasn’t going to get better. The last time she saw him there he was physically in pain and crying.
My father doesn’t cry, except for missing his wife.
By Tuesday evening, he was moved to a hospice. His told her, “Thank you, Sis.” When she walked into the hospice room he was sitting up, looking around with a smile.
His words? “This is nice, like a hotel room.”
His meaning? “This is nice. I could live die here.”
Wednesday morning, about 6:45, I was on the road. One of my ham radio systems allows my car to show up on the map on a computer. My brother tracked it so my dad knew I was coming.
Wednesday, 8:00 PM or so, I arrived at the hospice. My sister had been in for much of the day; my brother stopped by while I was there.
I told my dad that I would be there for him. If I left his side it was to grab something and I’d be right back. He was too tired to pray the rosary, his favorite prayer. I prayed it out loud for him. Afterwards, when he’d wake up, he’s wake up saying the end of an “Our Father,” or a “Hail Mary.”
The hospice people were wonderful. To them, Dad (like all their other patients) was a person whose dignity was to be respected. When he was in pain or distressed, they were there for him and if medication was called for, it was prompt.
The first time I walked into the room while they were bathing him, I got a quiet, polite unspoken challenge. “Do you belong here at this moment? Are you being respectful?” When they realized I was, they were fine. Every one of his needs were attended to. (I know God knows all this, but when I get to be with Him, I’m going to (respectfully) point out how wonderfully these people minister to the dying. I know pointing isn’t polite, but I’m going to proudly point and say, “See that? See that?”)
Dad slept fitfully. The hospice people had set up a cot for me. Clean sheets. Two pillows, Extra blankets. Coffee and tea in the Family Room.
“Dad, I’m going to get a cup of tea.”
“Get me one too.” Because of the various medical issues, the staff asked me to only give him a little using a syringe to squirt it into his mouth. I added two sugars. Usually he likes cream, but when I asked if he wanted cream he said, no. I gave him a taste of tea via the syringe.
My sister’s daughter, who has replaced me as the family medical expert was in an auto accident. Since she’s pregnant, all appropriate family members (yes, including me) were distracted.
I got a few hours’ sleep here and there. My father would mumble from his dreams. At least some of them must have been nice, because he said “it was on sale.”
Occasionally I could stretch out on the cot. At other times, I sat in one of those hospital recliners positioned – just – so – in order to make it for him to touch my hand.
I reassured him that I was there for him. If I left, I wouldn’t be far or long. We were in this together. I couldn’t offer him anything except myself.
He often reached forward as if he could see something there. We hear of a lighted tunnel, and, blah, blah, blah. I don’t know. There was something, or some hallucination, or some whatever in front of him that demanded his attention.
Frequently he would grip my hand. At first it was a firm guy-grip; thumb to thumb, fingers to fingers. I told him he still had a strong grip; my Dad – even now, being strong for me.
I believe modern people don’t bless one another often enough. We leave that to the clergy. Why? Did we subcontract? Do we believe we’re unworthy?
Spoiler alert – we’re all unworthy. Just forgiven and ransomed.
Ten years ago, when a priest friend of ours was headed to Iraq, I blessed him.
A few weeks ago I blessed my father.
I did so again last night.
“May the Lord bless you and keep you;
May the Lord look upon you and be gracious unto you;”
May the Lord let His face smile upon you”
And I bless you in the name of the Father, and the Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.”
As the night went on, when he touched me, he liked to put his hand on top mine. He was the father. He was in charge. He was strong.
But then again, perhaps, he was blessing me.
I told him something my brother and sister had already told him. It’s okay to go.
Okay – I need a side note here. My mother and father were two halves of a whole. Bookends are less matched than they were.
Last night while my brother and his wife were visiting, the door to his room suddenly swung open.
They decided it was our Mom coming to help Dad.
My sister woke up at 03something after a dream in which Mom called her and said it was time.
After so little sleep I asked if there was some place where I could get a shower. The hospice staff showed me where, and I showered and shaved. In the meantime, the hospice staff was bathing my father.
I came back.
I knew what was coming and asked Dad’s nurse that if she saw the signs – to let me know, so I could call my brother and my sister. The volunteer coordinator stopped by and told me that they always honored veterans, but she was afraid that there wouldn’t be time.
The nurse came in to insert a new needle for one of his meds. As she started, Dad opened his eyes, but they were vacant. He breathed here and there, but it was obvious that he was leaving.
I told him, “Dad, it’s okay. You advanced beyond your parents and you allowed us to advance to the next level.” My dad’s father finished 8th grade. His mother 5th. That was the norm at the end of the 19th century. My dad graduated high school, enlisted in the Navy and became a Lieutenant on the Police Department. All of his children have completed college – and then some. “You did your job. It’s okay. You’ve done what you were here to do. It’s okay to go.”
I spoke, quietly. “Eternal rest grant unto him, Oh Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
He wanted me there. He waited until I could be there. My sister brother who had carried the load up until then? He’s our Dad. You can’t put all the chores on any one child.
Nancy had been headed in. I called her. Traffic was crazy. A train stopped at the crossing for a l-o-n-g time. I called Jim. He was immediately on his way.
We think Dad told Mom that this one was my job, she may have had some part in the train-stuck-at-the-crossing thing
When my brother and sister arrived, we sat in Dad’s room and talked about family stuff. He looked at peace. We took a break to let them remove all the medical stuff so the funeral people could take him. While we waited, they cleaned him up, put him in fresh linens, arranged the sheets and, placed his hands on his chest.
We sat in the room and talked. We shared experiences. We laughed. We cried.
If Dad heard us from this world or the next, he knows…
We were family, We ARE family.
(Any grammatical errors, etc. Get over it. Thank you, And, oh by the way, a most sincere, “God bless you.” And I truly mean that.)