One year ago....today....I lost my Dad.
Three weeks sitting at his bedside would be some of the hardest days I've ever experienced in my life. At the end of each day, for seventeen days, I would type Facebook Notes so that family and friends could stay updated. My Dad died on day eighteen....and I wrote a post...but couldn't post it. In fact, I haven't been able to reread any of my posts until just recently....and then, I don't get far reading before I have to stop. Baby steps. Below is the post I wrote from my Dad's last day...I will post it today.
Friday, January 27, 2012 - Day 18
The day started pretty much like so many before it. Woke up, checked my phone for missed messages. Surely my Dad couldn't have lasted through another night. Nope...no message. I thought surely no one wanted to wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me he was gone...so when I go downstairs, I will get the news that he has passed. Nope...no news. Time to get ready to make that trip back to the nursing home. The same trip I have made for the past three weeks. It feels a bit like that movie Groundhog Day. I drive to the nursing home and sit in the parking lot for a few minutes...mustering up the courage to walk inside.
When I arrive, my older brother Terry is there...sitting quietly in a chair near Dad's bed. I walk in...take off my coat...grab tissues....and have a little meltdown. I've done this for seventeen days now..it's my routine...today is no different. What is different today is that our favorite aide is working a day shift. He is the aide that we have come to appreciate so much. He is attentive not only to Dad's needs, but ours as well. He stops in to let me know that he's working in another wing, but promises to check in on his breaks to make sure we're doing okay.
Dad's breathing is different today. Seems more rapid, maybe even breathy...if that makes any sense. He is no longer hiccuping. He'd experienced so many days of continued hiccups, I almost miss the sound. Terry and I end up talking about donuts, of all things. Mighty Fine donuts...chocolate frosted...white cream filling. (that's another blog post) I tease him about stopping to pick some up for me since he drives right by there every day. In fact, I kind of give him a hard time here for not bringing me one sooner, and if you've ever experienced one of these donuts you would understand why. Terry leaves at eleven to head to work. It's just Dad and I. The nursing home staff comes and goes.....the hallway is noisy so I shut the door. Other than his breathing, Dad is quiet today. His body seems quiet...unmoving. I kiss him on the forehead...hold his hand...rub his arm....tell him I love him....settle in to the chair that sits near the head of his bed. This is where I like to sit....nearer to his head....hoping he hears me when I speak.
Somewhere around 11:30am the med nurse comes in to check Dad's blood sugars. They're high....again. We joke that we think the third shift nursing staff is running him to McDonald's as he hasn't eaten in so long, there's no reason for the high blood sugars. Our aide stops in to see how things are going. The med nurse leaves to get insulin, which seems strange that we are continuing to treat the high blood sugars. She returns to give Dad his shot. It was at this point that things seem to take a significant turn. Dad's breathing began to change. It became more of a pant. Quicker...shorter...distressed. The med nurse, the aide and I all notice the change at the same time...and share that knowing look. The med nurse asks me if I want to step outside. I shake my head no....I need to stay...I'm not leaving him. My knees were shaking...someone suggested I sit. More nurses enter the room, shutting door behind them...and the room is silent...other than Dad's breaths. Everyone speaks in hushed tones...one of the nurses quietly walks to the window and slides it open, which seems odd and yet and yet comforting at the same time. I am holding my Dad's hand in my right hand....the aide is holding my left hand in his. I tell my Dad I love him...that his family loves him so very much. The breaths stop. The silence is deafening. My Dad has gone...quietly...peacefully. A nurse asks me if I want to call my family. I was escorted to an office across the hall to start making phone calls. I pulled out my phone and stared at it for a bit...trying to remember how to use it. I need to call everyone...starting with the oldest brother and working my way down seems appropriate.
The next hour or so is kind of a blur but there are a few moments that stand out in my mind. I am in an office with windows to the hallway of the nursing home on two sides. The nursing home employees are coming and going as usual...doing their jobs. It seems strange that the world is still moving along as if nothing has just happened. Occasionally they stop in to say they are sorry for our loss. One by one I continue to make more phone calls as we as a family gather, preparing to go back into Dad's room as a group. Terry arrives, didn't quite make it to work...gives me a hug and says "I didn't get your donuts"...that makes me laugh.
As a group, we are ushered back into Dad's room. We sit in silence....together. We cry quietly. Before I leave...I place one last kiss on my Dad's forehead. Love you, Dad.