Photo courtesy of: Olivia Henn
The final days of Dad’s life were spent by Mom, my brother and I taking turns keeping him company. In the meantime, his physician arrived one morning to check on Dad’s vitals and give us the number to the Coroner’s office. What, Coroner’s office? We had no idea that this would be something we would need to know. Dad’s physician also added we should make his funeral arrangements now so that we could have more time to grieve. All three of us looked at each other and agreed that none of us could leave the house while Dad was semi-comatose. Collectively, we decided to call the funeral home and let them know the situation, which they completely understood. Once the Coroner pronounced Dad, we were to call their office and they would send out their team out to pick up Dad. So this was how it was to be? I kept thinking; 63 years old, inevitable death, coroner, funeral arrangements, we weren’t ready to let him go yet. I realized that although Dad was dying, we had developed a daily routine that no one understood. Each day Dad would worsen, but we handled it and became used to his presence and understood every one of his nuances. His skipped breath, the noise of the oxygen machine, the closed then opened eyes, the look of his hands, no we were not ready for any of this or to let him go.
In addition, I was running back and forth to my apartment to make sure my new kitten Buggs was fed and had some company for a short while. I hated leaving my parent’s house as I kept thinking, ‘What if Dad dies when I’m not there’? So, my trips to the apartment were quick and quiet.
I also do not remember if any of us ate food during this time. My weight plummeted, as did Mom’s. Our sleep was minimal as we didn’t want Dad to be alone, and although we tried to complete daily tasks, nothing was ever finished. The television set was on 24/7, due to the sound of the oxygen machine; this eventually became non-existent, as somehow our auditory perception had become altered.
The time was creeping closer to Mother’s Day. I had hoped that Dad would not die on this day, for Mom’s sake. Every year for as long as I could remember Dad would present Mom with flowers, a card, and lovely dinner for Mother’s day. I decided during one of my trips back to the apartment, that I would head out to purchase a card for him to sign. Why? I have no idea, but I thought it was the right thing to do at the time. Somehow I could not let Mom know that Dad had forgotten this day. Was I hoping, that by some miracle, he would sit up and be cured? Miracles do happen, but in my heart I knew there would be no miracle for our little family.
I arrived at the house with card in hand. My brother met me at the door to let me know that Mom had walked upstairs to her bedroom to take a well-needed nap. This was my chance to try to wake Dad to have him sign the card, I thought. My brother looked at me when I told him I had to get Dad to sign the card.
‘Paula, he hasn’t woken up in hours, I don’t think he will sign the card’, my brother said looking down at the floor sympathetically.
‘He has to sign it’, I said, ‘tomorrow’s Mother’s Day’, I said with tears in my eyes.
My brother just shook his head and walked away.
If it took everything I had, I would make him sign the card, I thought. Dad had not given up, I had not given up, why was everyone else giving up? No, this was going to happen! Dad wasn’t out for the count yet, his eyes still fluttered at times. He wasn’t gone and he raised me to never give up, to keep trying, even if the odds were against me, he had to know that I hadn’t given up! This WAS going to happen, wasn’t it?