Dad…. Saying Goodbye

Just thinking…..

How do you say goodbye to someone when you know it likely is the last time you will do so?

A couple of years ago, Dad was having extreme pain in his legs. The PA prescribed a powerful pain med, which unfortunately sent Dad over the edge mentally. He was sitting in our living room and began talking about the fire outside (there was no fire), about his little pony out there in the storm (there was no storm and no pony). He thought my mom was his teacher. Then he began violently waving his cane about and shouting. We got him to the hospital, where he continued to see boxes on the wall, doors and windows that weren’t there, large birds, and more. I thought, “I have lost my father. He is gone, and I never had a chance to say goodbye.” He came out of this state, but was never quite the same.

About a year and a half ago, my dad became very ill. It seemed as if he had pneumonia over and over and was getting weaker and weaker. Dad had assorted problems and illnesses: heart problems, high cholesterol, prostate cancer, rotator cuff tears, rheumatoid arthritis among others And now…. the everlasting pneumonia.

Finally he was transported to DesMoines to a larger hospital for more sophisticated testing. Mom and we kids got an apartment across the street from the hospital so that we could be there with him. He became worse and worse, and still the staff could not pinpoint the problem.

One night he almost died. We were at the apartment and hurried over to the hospital. In my mind, I was already composing my goodbye words. I wanted to tell him I loved him, that I appreciated everything he had done for me, that his example and encouragement had made me who I am today…. and more. I tend to be a wordy person, and this little speech was growing longer as we crossed the street and waited for the elevator.

Dad rallied, and I didn’t have to use the goodbye speech. He was then diagnosed with crypto-coccal fungus growing in his lungs and began treatment for that. But as the year progressed, his problems just continued to grow. He was in and out of the hospitals, skilled care nursing homes and our homes.

One night he was in intensive care. The Hubs and I were taking the overnight shift of staying with him. He had an IV in the groin artery, but kept trying in his mental confusion to pull it out. I literally spent the night leaning on him, trying to keep his hands confined under a pillow, so that he could not get to the IV. During this time he began to moan in a different way. The nurses were wonderful and were treating him for the pain, but still he moaned and carried on.

At daybreak a sister came in to relieve us. I was planning on catching 40 winks as soon as I got home, but a phone call interrupted that plan. Dad was having a massive heart attack. We hurried back to the hospital, and my goodbye speech was forming again in my mind.

The family gathered in his room. He had his eyes closed and I was not sure if he heard us or even knew that we were there. They gave him only a short time to live, and we all took a turn getting close and talking to him.

My goodbye speech was about our trips that we had taken as family. Almost every year we had piled into the old car and taken off for destinations both far and near. Usually we tried to see family when we went out of state. Sometimes we visited sites around our home state. Once we went to Washington DC just because Dad said every American should visit there. We spent winter nights researching the booklets and brochures and maps to plan our trips. So I spoke to Dad about his taking a trip now to a place where none of us had ever been: Heaven. I talked to him about how we used to plan our trips with great anticipation, and how he had spent his lifetime planning for this final destination. I thanked him for caring for us so much with all his careful planning. And I told him how someday, I would take this same trip and see him again.

Remarkably, Dad came through the ordeal alive. But he began to fail quickly. He no longer could stand, sit, feed himself, clean himself. He did not call me by name for several weeks, but instead addressed us as “Teacher”. He had moments of lucidity, moments when he would sing, but mostly he chattered to people we could not see about things that we could not observe. The dementia increased and I knew that he probably would never know reality again. How could I say goodbye? How does one say goodbye to someone who can’t recognize it as goodbye?

I tried. At times that I sat by his bedside, I would just go along with his ramblings, and try to insert statements of thanks. For example, he one time said, “Teacher, we need to measure to see if all the beds will fit in here. They will have to be against the north wall. Can you measure it?”

“Sure, Dad,” I replied. “And thanks for always making sure that we had a safe place to live and sleep.”

It was the best I could do.

During the last few days, he didn’t open his eyes, refused most food, spit out his pills. He muttered a little, but mostly made unintelligible sounds.

Then Hospice said it was about time. Dad’s breathing had changed and his skin was beginning to mottle. We called in the family. We knew it probably was a matter of hours. At around 5 pm, most of the family was down the hall making some sandwiches. I stayed in the room with Dad; we wanted someone with him all the time. I watched him and leaned down close to his ear. I have no idea if he could hear me or not, but I said, “Dad, all the kids are here. Mom is here. Even some of the grandkids and great grandkids are here. You’ve been through so much, fought so hard. It’s OK. We love you and we’ll take care of Mom.” Then another sib came in and I went down the hall to get a sandwich.

But I never got it. I had a slice of something on a styrofoam plate when we were quickly summoned to the room. Dad was within minutes of seeing Jesus. We gathered around the bed, placed hands on him and began to sing.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace”

Then my brother in law began to pray. Dad took a breath at the beginning of the prayer. He was not breathing at the end.

The things of earth had grown strangely dim for Dad as he looked at Jesus.

Last night I wrote on this blog about grieving and mentioned that I grieve differently than some because I have the hope of my faith. That’s probably the most important reason. But I also grieve differently because I had already said goodbye. I think that I have been grieving all these months, but just did not recognize it as so.

I have an uncommon peace about my dad’s death, a strange calmness and sense of acceptance. But it has left me tired. I did not realize how grieving can sap energy and drain every fiber of my body. I didn’t realize how my mind would be worn out.

It’s been a long strange journey…..

I can only rest in You, knowing that Your plans and timing are perfect. I thank You that I had a chance to say goodbye to my father, in fact, I had the chance many times! I thank You that you are carrying me in this time of grieving. Amen

To God Be The Glory,

Published in: on July 24, 2013 at 4:21 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. {{{Hugs}}} Jean (aka Peanut)

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