Today I lost my dad. I’ve never lost an immediate family member before, and I never understood these kinds of feelings. I’ve heard people talk about their loss, but I couldn’t really relate.
Dad and I argued a lot. And then we would each complain about the other to our friends. Then we would drop it and move on. We were both stubborn, bull-headed (and whiny.)
But besides his argumentative side, he was generous and friendly. He was the kind who made friends and kept them. He was genuinely interested in others. And he could always make you laugh.
He progressively deteriorated with time. But he remained in denial and often complained about living in a care home “with all these old people”.
Then there was a sudden decline Tuesday morning, but he could still understand things and communicate a bit.
That afternoon his best friend called to talk and pray for him as I held the phone to Dad’s ear. Dad was in a much lighter mood for three or four hours after that call.
Wednesday, the Hospice chaplain came, and that was comforting. Dad was not able to communicate, but the chaplain prayed over him where he could hear.
Today (Thursday) his respirations were in the 40’s, deep, and quite loud. He could not communicate at all. His eyes remained shut.
I put a Julie True CD in the player, grabbed his Bible, lowered his side rails, and arranged the chair next to him. I sat and held his hand, and talked to him – doubting he could hear me over the breathing noises – but tried anyway.
I read some Scriptures to him but felt that wasn’t what he needed to hear. I had read him the first 30 Psalms on Wednesday. And my spirit told me this wasn’t what he needed today.
So I prayed. His breathing was so labored, even after another dose of morphine, and I knew he couldn’t carry on like that for much longer. I texted Dad’s best friend and asked him to pray for Dad’s peace, and he said OK.
Then I felt to tell Dad all the things from the depth of my soul. “Its OK, Dad. Its OK. I’ll miss you, Dad, but I’ll be OK. You are a good dad. I’m sorry for my part in all of our disagreements, and I forgive you for your part in them. I love you and respect you. I am proud of you. Its OK. You can rest now. I’ll miss you. I love you.”
Then I didn’t feel prompted to say anything more, so I just held his hand and stroked his arm. Next thing – his respiratory rate dropped to the 30’s for a couple of minutes – and stopped. Another minute or so later – another breath – then another breath a while later – then no more.
I could see his carotid pulse – rapid and small – then it became undiscernible. It was 12:45 PM. The caregiver came by the room– no doubt because his breathing had become quiet. She checked him, hugged me, and went and called the Hospice nurse.
I cried. I knew Dad had gone to a better place. But I had lost my dad – and my friend. His skin became pale yellow. His fever resolved rather quickly.
The caregiver returned and held me for a long while. We exchanged stories of some of Dad’s pranks. We both laughed and cried off and on.
She told me she used to go to Dad’s room, when she had time, and hold his hand and talk to him. He would call her his “pretty doll”, and she would call him her “handsome prince”.
Another caregiver said sometimes Dad acted obstinate and would try to kick her. She would play-kick back at him and challenge him to a duel. Pretty soon they would both be laughing, and he would agree to whatever care she wanted to do for him.
As they told me their stories, it was bitter-sweet. They fixed me some tea. The Hospice nurse came, assessed, pronounced, and told me what would be next. She would make all of the phone calls, and I would need to sign papers in the morning.
When I got home, I was struck by how quiet it felt. I couldn’t understand why it should feel quiet. Dad didn’t live with me in my apartment. Why should it feel quiet now that he is gone? But it did feel very quiet.
As I pondered the quiet, I noticed what I can only describe as a large hollow feeling in my chest – like something had been there – and now was missing. I had heard of feeling hollow inside, and I never really knew what that was. But it was real.
I called the people that needed a personal call, and there were more tears. Generosity and kindness abounded. Dad was well loved by many.
I’ve tried to remain coherent all day – but, honestly, I have felt rather confused. I have been wandering around, starting chores, losing items, and feeling sad. But, really, what are you supposed to do on the day your dad dies?
I’ve never been in this kind of place before, and that empty hollow feeling keeps threatening to come back. There are more emails & texts to respond to.
Now its been eight hours and five minutes since Dad left this world. I never knew losing him would be this hard.
Do I have regrets? Yeah. But all I can say now is that he was a great man, and he loved me.