From my journal of November 8 and 9, 2005
Dad had bad fever this am. Fever broke and he was a awake and alert for a short while. Toughest on my sister who is trying to do round clock nursing care for both Mom and Dad. Sad to see her so desperate.
My brother and I staying at hotel. We're working with mortuary and cremation service to get things arranged.
Mom is getting closer to realization. I laid on her bed with her tonight, wrapped my arms around her, and asked what songs she might want for Dad. She cried a little. But held back a LOT.
This afternoon, it appears, Dad is getting ready to leave his body. He doesn't move very much at all now, breathing is rough, but steady with some stops. His eyes are not much focused. He can be easily roused, but will look toward you when he is. He cannot seem to talk any more. The only thing he said today was "oil" which we took to mean that he wanted a priest to come and anoint him with oil. This is a practice of the my Dad's church. My Dad was raised Episcopal. So this evening a priest came and did the anointing ceremony for them both.
In the meantime, at one point my mom was seated in the lazyboy chair beside his bed and kept talking to him, telling him she loved him, what a good husband he has been and so on. She knows he cannot respond. She is blind and cannot see when he winks his eye to her to let her know he hears her. So we have to tell her when he blinked to some comment she has made. She also has been singing old love songs to him from long ago that we never heard of. He tries to move his mouth to them, but he is too weak. This all still seems hardest on my sister.
When my brother and I are by ourselves we talk. We both seem to be more calm (numb?) about it all. Or maybe not as deeply engaged emotionally? Today we went to a mortuary together and talked "business" and are beginning to put together a memorial plan. It's been exhausting and frustrating, having gone to several to find out they are majorly ready to take a lot of money for very little sentiment.
My Dad did not have a plan in place, nor anything written down suggesting what he might want. Though over the years he has said he wanted cremation, and ashes scattered near his childhood home Kinzua, Pennsylvania.
It is very difficult to concentrate on all this when I am in the midst of it. Even though I feel balanced and oddly calm, I still seem to have a hard time focusing on facts and understanding them clearly. I am probably pissing people off by constantly asking for clarification. They just assume that I am supposed to know what they are meaning, and I want clear hard statements, so I really understand what is being communicated to me. It's kind of like listening through a metal tube with water running nearby. Not only am I not sure I hear things right, but it's very distracting to keep my focus on what is being said.
At one point this evening, my sister was taking care of my mother, who cannot get to the bathroom by herself or take care of personal needs. I sat with my Dad, face to face, and held his hand. I spoke to him and asked if he still had some unfinished business. It seemed he wanted to answer, but of course could not. I know that up until last week he was still worried about bills that he could not pay. So I told him that he really doesn't need to worry about money any more, that he could relax that it doesn't matter now, and he is free from any debts, and that if there is anything outstanding, I know my brother has said he would take care of it.
He blinked in response. I asked him if he remembered that I had a near death experience in the past. He blinked yes. I asked if he wanted me to tell him about this again. He blinked and I reminded him how beautiful it is, and how anything that was ever a worry is so clearly understood in new terms, and how we are finally free, and filled with love, and light, and beauty beyond all understanding.
He got tears in his eyes by that time and was squeezing my hand, I was quiet for a while, and just stroked his forehead. He kept tight of hold of my hand because every time I tried to pull my hand away, he just held it tighter. I was really surprised at the strength. If this was a dying man, he was super strong. He was really holding on and didn't want me to pull my hand away.
When I was telling him about the tunnel and the light and the peace that passes all understanding, he looked away from me across the room. I wondered if someone had come in the room. I turned to see who was there, but no one was there. Dad gave my hand another tight squeeze as he looked at me and back to what he was looking at. I wonder what he saw. We just sat quietly then and watched as my sister helped my mom back to her bed. She stayed with them as the rest of us left to go get some sleep.
Just a few hours later, my sister called to say that Dad died quietly in his sleep. She had fallen asleep in the chair next to him. Mom was in the bed on the other side, asleep.
My sister wanted to know if we wanted to come over to see Dad one last time as the Mortuary would be arriving to take him away. We had so little sleep but I couldn't just lay there. We knew Mom would need us all there, so we got up and went over. We quietly kissed my Dad. Then my sister awoke Mom.
Some would say not to wake her and just sneak the body quietly away, but we just didn't feel that would be right for Mom. Of course, she was inconsolable and very distraught. But, I think her reaction would have been worse if she just awoke to an empty bed beside her. As it was, it was hard to witness. She kept reaching over through the bed rails trying to touch Dad. At one point she even tried to climb over them. So that she wouldn't hurt herself, we took down the bed rails and pulled them closer together so she could touch him and say her last good byes. We all kept attending to Mom, but at one point I had a need to lie down beside my Dad. Mom kept reaching over and wanting his hand to hold but it was finally getting cold, so I just reached across and put my hand in hers to hold.
Some of the nursing staff came in to kiss Dad goodbye and hold and hug Mom. It warmed my heart that people who had taken care of them, and sometimes seemed cold, really did care for the. Finally the hospice nurse came in and hugged us all. She had to make the "assessment" and file the official "paper". Then the mortuary came with one attendant only, which confused me. I don't know why I thought it would be more "official" than that. So, my brother and the Hospice nurse helped to put my father onto the gurney and then his body was taken away. I could not make a move. All I could do was watch. I wondered at my brother's ability to take our father in his arms and pull him across the bed onto the gurney. I looked at his face when he was positioning Dad's legs. There was nothing there except sheer love. A moment after that, his eyes landed on mine and there was a silent acknowledgment of vulnerability. No more Daddy.
My son, was able to come down, and spent that evening sleeping in Dad's bed next to his Grandma, keeping her company, and talking to her. Did he sing to her, too? I think I remember her saying he did.
Goodnight sweetheart, 'til we meet tomorrow
Goodnight sweetheart, sleep will banish sorrow
Tears and parting may make us forlorn
But with the dawn a new day is born
So I'll say goodnight sweetheart, though I'm not beside you
Goodnight sweetheart, still my love will guide you
Dreams involve you and in each one I'll hold you
Goodnight sweetheart, goodnight
The day is over and it's cares and woes
In peaceful sweet repose, will fade and die
A dreamy dreamland beckons you and me
How happy life would be if we could dream forever
So I'll say goodnight sweetheart
Even though I'm not, I'm not always right beside you
I'll still say goodnight, goodnight sweetheart
I want you to know that my love, my love will always guide you
And dreams involve you, in each one I'll hold you
Goodnight sweetheart, goodnight...