Yes, I ended up quitting my job at the radio station to stay with Mom and Dad during his last few weeks on earth. I had nowhere to go, but home at the time.
I sat with Dad trying to wrap up some of his work. He was sitting on his lazy boy chair hooked up to the oxygen machine and I was cross-legged on the floor surrounded by papers. I looked up and said ‘Dad, you have to tell me where you want me to file these.’
He looked down at me struggling to keep his eyes open and said quietly,
‘Paula, I’m dying and I’m tired, I can’t do this anymore.’
What? Dad never spoke about his death; we had no idea what his wishes were; burial, etc, yet now he decides to let me know he is dying. I couldn’t say a word. I was angry, why wasn’t he trying to fight more? What the hell? It seemed pretty clear now that he was giving up, and I didn’t want any part of it. I gathered all the papers on the floor and threw them in a file.
‘Fine’ I said frustrated. I took the file and placed it on the dining room table.
I was blindsided. I had asked Mom many times if Dad even mentioned the word death and she always replied, ‘your father doesn’t talk about such things’.
So there it was, I was the lucky one to have had Dad say to me he was dying. Yippee! Not! I was not at all ready for the quiet revelation and did not know what to do with it anyhow.
During these last few weeks of Dad’s life, many family and friends came to visit. The visits were great for Mom, my brother and I, as it took a small load off our shoulders, if only for a couple of hours here and there.
Dad was his usual smiling self when family came to visit, although his sparkling blue eyes revealed a deep sadness. I remember that when family and children dropped by, he would look over at me with tears in his eyes. Was he thinking he would never walk me down the aisle, never have a chance to enjoy grandchildren, would he miss us more than he could put into words? No one could answer those questions, as he never spoke about his feelings and emotions.
Our time together was precious. Once he could no longer keep his eyes open, it was time to get him into the hospital bed, where he would stay until he passed. In the meantime, we had round the clock nursing, graciously paid for by Dad’s employer and friend. We were lucky to have these special people stay with us, if not only for the physical assistance, but for the company. One of the special nurses always wanted Dad’s hair to look good, of which he barely had any, and would comb it daily. It was comical, because Dad didn’t really seem to care that every day at the same time she would walk up behind him and say, ‘Raymond, let’s comb that hair’, where Dad would reply, ‘That shouldn’t take long, the two or three strands can be just combed over’.
The expected 2 weeks had now moved into the third week. Dad was becoming weaker and weaker and he slept most of the time. We always had the TV on in the background, as none of us could stand the silence broken up by the oxygen machine noise. I barely remember if we even spoke much to one another. We were all in a fog trying to deal with our own imminent loss.
During the few times Dad was awake, we would always ask him if he was experiencing any pain. If he said his back hurt, we would administer a spoonful of liquid morphine, where he would be thankful and fall back asleep.
‘It wouldn’t be long now’, one of the nurses said to us. ‘Once he no longer wakes up, it may be another 24 hours.’
Whoa, no that can’t be, I thought. He can’t go yet; there is so much I want to say to him, there is so much he wants to say to me. He’s only 63 years old, what would Mom do without him? In fact, what would we all do without him?