I wrote about Dad a few times over the brief history of this blog.
Around four in the morning Wednesday, Dad passed away.
His illness finally won its cruel battle with him. He was receiving hospice care. Morphine kept him as comfortable as possible.
He had been hospitalized in November.
Eventually, he had recovered enough to be in assisted living for the last several months.
For a man as active as Dad was over his 86 years, this last stretch seems unusually unfair. He fought a losing battle bravely without complaint.
Vascular degeneration is the official villain here.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
Years ago, my parents drew up a will and left my youngest brother in charge of things. They gave him detailed instructions of where all the accounts and policies were. When Mom died, six years ago, Dad was able to handle all of that. This time, the burden fell to my brother.
He had to figure out the best place for care and how to pay for it.
The kind of care Dad needed was expensive so the house was sold in the hope that the money would extend enough to give Dad the best care available.
And my brother had to do all that while still holding down a full-time job. He took the challenge and performed admirably.
I would suggest to anyone reading this: Take the time to do what my parents did. Doing that ahead of time gives the person a chance to figure things out without the stress that accompanies a debilitating illness.
END OF PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
Dad has a wonderful mind for making and fixing things. He built workbenches, fences, sheds. In his mid ’70′s, he replaced all the siding on their ranch-style house. He had never done that before, so he studied it for months. When he was sure he could do it, he tackled the project single-handed.
The one thing he couldn’t fix or change was Mom’s death. She died suddenly the morning after Thanksgiving almost six years ago.
Thanksgiving night, she told him she didn’t feel well.
At 9:00 that night, he took her to the nearest hospital. It was just five minutes away. She WALKED into the emergency room. My wife and I were pulling up as she did that. Over the next few hours, guesses were made as to what was wrong. A cardiologist made some initial tests. When it seemed everything was going to remain the same with her, Dad went home for a few hours of sleep.
As we walked through the parking lot he mentioned that he hated to leave her there.
About six in the morning, we got a call from the hospital. Things had gotten worse. We hurried back. My wife and kids joined us.
Mom had stabilized enough for them to move her to run some tests.
At nine o’clock, an ashen-faced cardiologist told us he had “the worst news”. Mom had 20 minutes to live. She lasted 21.
Dad was devastated. He went over the last twelve and a half hours of Mom’s life for the rest of his. He seemed convinced there was a solution. Maybe a different hospital. Maybe he should have taken her there earlier. Maybe….maybe….
There was no convincing him that he did all he could. “I know what you are saying, but…”, his voice would trail off.
Well, he has peace now. No more pain. No more regret.
For the first time in my 57 years, there is no parent to call with good news. No one to ask for advice. No one to trade well-worn stories with.
That is how life works.
Knowing that doesn’t make this any easier.
Sunday, we will make the drive to my hometown and spend a few hours consoling people who are trying to console us. Monday, the funeral.
He was in the military at the end of WW ll, so there will be a military presence . Taps will be played. Tears will flow.
We will make our way from the funeral to a nearby restaurant where stories will be shared. The atmosphere will be lighter, People will laugh as a release.
Dad taught me that.
When my great-grandmother died, Dad was a pallbearer.
As he and one of my Mom’s cousins walked away from the funeral, their duties fulfilled, the cousin said to Dad,”You weren’t lifting your share.”
Dad said, ” That’s why I get in the middle.”
One last thing:
At the hospital, when Dad was becoming aware of what his future held he said something that I thought was simple and profound.
I would hope everyone could say this at the end.
Usually, I end these posts with the word “Peace”.
Today, Dad gets the last word.
He said, “I can’t complain, I’ve had a good life”.