Death Watch: Chapter 2

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Anyone reading these articles is probably smart enough to figure out that I am using this forum to discharge emotional energy and to help myself process this phase of life called Death. This reason, and another, to memorialize my father, to honor him, and finally, the third, to share some of my experience so that someone else, who finds herself in the middle of the maze, may take comfort that she is not alone. Many have trudged before us, and all will after us. And some of us are walking together, at the same time. We are not alone.

My dad is finally in hospice as of this evening. A bigger, more comfortable, private room. For the past two days, he has been physically devastated and waning. I would see glimpses of his mind here and there, the usual mental acuity would surface for an instant, but was always overshadowed by his labored breathing. It’s hard for him to talk, he has no breath. I know that this is part of the process of dying. It isn’t scary. It just is. So I scoot forward and bend down to catch his words. Most of them were mumbo jumbo, but here and there the mind functioned on.

Today, however, was different. Each day I go visit with no expectations. So I was not surprised to see him sitting up, mentally and physically alert. It was creepy, actually. I knew my mom’s plans today were to have him transferred to hospice. To see him so alert was a bit of shock, especially since yesterday he was crumpled in a ball being spoon-fed pudding by my mother. Some conversation with him reminded me that he is still dying. His mind isn’t all there. His short-term memory is nil. His kidneys are still not functioning, his breathing is still labored. But nevertheless, there he was. I told him I was going to bring my brother from the airport tomorrow to see him. “Yes,” he said. “What time does his plane get in?” “About noon, Dad.” “Good.”

He fed himself chocolate ice cream with strawberries, his choice for lunch. He hasn’t fed himself in days. Another surprise. My mom and I left for an hour to grab a bite while Dad took his after lunch nap. We talked about how creepy it was he was so alert. She and I both had some second thoughts … and some guilt. Then I remembered that the doctor had given him hemoglobin day before last, to help him feel physically better. I reminded Mom of this, it was a temporary fix. And a good thing, for a short time, so that his awareness is keener for my brother’s arrival from out of town.

Waiting for hospice transport after our meal, my dad awoke and he said “when’s your brother coming?” I said, “Tomorrow, Dad.” And hour later, “When’s your brother coming?” “Tomorrow, Dad.” Another hour. “When’s your brother coming?” “Tomorrow, Dad.” Then later, “Who’s singing?” No one. My mom goes to tell him that, I put my hand on her arm. “I am Dad. Do you like it?” “Yeah, I do.” “Close your eyes, I’ll sing some more.”

My mom struggles to get food and liquid in him each day, and gets agitated by his “goofiness.” All of this, lack of appetite, talking to unseen people, hearing things, all of it is perfectly normal. I am glad to be with my mom.

I am grateful for the unseen inner strength and intuition that sustains me. And I am happy to let Dad have his own death. I am deeply spiritual, my faith in my God has sustained me, grown me, lead me down paths that are indescribable in pain and joy. My father does not share my faith. I am content and happy to be present for him and my mother. Nothing to prove.

The time spent directly with my mom and dad is pretty peaceful. The seamy side of this is what is happening outside the care facility. There is unpleasant stressful, kick-me in-the-gut anger in dealing with my own family and the drama they have. Drama that has nothing to do with what I am doing, and is driving me insane. I am not a saint, and I will assure the reader here that I have stress, irritability and anger, agitation, impatience. My flaws of self-righteousness and having enormous expectations of others wait for me every day when I leave my dad. It seems like I get into my car, and shrug on the old clothes of character flaws. My sibling brings drama, he has spoken of it over the phone. I quit calling him and stuck to e-mail. Today I got two emails, his drama. I was furious and wanted to lash out, “This is not about YOU. This is about Dad, and Mom.” I haven’t lashed … yet.

God keep my tongue tomorrow on the drive from the airport to hospice! A wise friend counsels me every day to stay focused on being present for my parents. Ignore the rest, do not take the gift of others drama. I try, but as things are winding down to simple for Dad, I am more impatient with my husband, my kids, and certainly, my brother. I have a canker sore the size of Cleveland on my lip. This is stress. I spent one full day two days ago, vomiting, diarrhea, and shivering under a winter blanket. It’s 110 degrees outside. Stress.

Tomorrow’s another day. God help me.



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