“Dad’s not doing well…you need to come quickly!” These were the frantic words from my sister, calling from the hospital. My dad had fallen and broken his hip a few days earlier and has been in a rapid decline ever since. It’s as if every aliment and disease he ever had in the past has decided to use this injury as an open invitation to re-invade his body. It’s an unfair fight…he doesn’t stand a chance.
As I write this, my father is lying peacefully in his hospital bed right before me. I say peacefully but the truth is he has just enough drugs in his system to stay one step ahead of the incredible pain he’s experiencing. I guess that’s good, right?
Our whole family has been gathering in his small hospital room for the past few hours, including my sister and brother-in-law from Boston. We are joined by a hospice nurse. Hospice has assigned a whole team to ensure that my father dies with dignity and with as much comfort as is humanly possible. It’s nice to have them here on the one hand but on the other hand they are a constant reminder that my father is going to die. It’s all happening so fast…too fast…I’m not prepared.
A few hours go by and my father slips into a comatose state. He seems to be having difficulty breathing as well. We all look at the nurse, “Can’t you do anything for him?” She reassures us that he is comfortable and that this is part of the process. His body is slowly shutting down.
I’m having a difficult time seeing my father in this state. My mind keeps jumping back to past memories…pleasant ones…and it’s making me sadder and sadder. I want to cry but am too numb to let my emotions out. Some family members are crying and comforting each other out in the hallway. It’s a bittersweet moment.
The hospice nurse believes that my father is down to just a few hours. She suggests we say our final goodbyes and to be sure to release him (give him permission to leave us). We all circle around my father’s bed. My mother, married to my father for over sixty years, grabs my father’s face, kisses him and tells him how much she loves him. She then tells him it’s okay to go. Just then, a tear forms from my father’s eye, and rolls down his cheek. My mother breaks down, as did the rest of us. It was one of the most touching moments I’ve ever seen and one I’ll never forget.
Love is an amazing thing, isn’t it!
* My father’s last breath was at 8:48am on Saturday, January 14th, 2012. He was a great man and will be missed.