The End

Dad died Monday, morning at 8:12 am, officially anyway. I arrived at the hospital just after 8:00 and called Kate and Larry at the house at 8:06 that they needed to come right away. Even as I said those words, I knew he would be gone before they arrived.

When I walked into his room, I could see that his face was white and thought that he was already gone. I walked around to his right side. He was completely silent. I thought at first he had stopped breathing then noticed he was just breathing gently and slowly. When I held his right hand, it was cold. I felt the left, and it was still warm. I told him I was there and that I loved him. He took a few more breaths and then stopped. I called the nurse. Two of them came in to check his heart. Neither could pick up a beat. We looked at the clock and noticed that it was still set on Daylight Savings Time and 5 minutes ahead at that. I looked at my phone and saw that it was 8:14. One of the nurses said, “Should we say 8:14?” I said, “Being a data man, let’s say it was 8:12. I think that would be a more precise guestimate.”

Dad’s brother and his wife left just before 8:00. Larry is just arriving here. Kate and I are drained. I will comment later on the service and reception.

Entering the Final Chapter

Though no one can predict when Dad’s journey will end, today it is clear to everyone that he has turned a corner leading down the pathway to the end. Yesterday Dad was awake and continuing to drink his orange juice, tea, and Coke. He was weaker, and he had a hard time talking. He would say something with a reasonably strong voice, and then have to rest. During the resting time, he might try to mouth words but couldn’t get them out. As the day progressed, he seemed to drift further away. He did drink 2 bottles of Kellogg’s Special K Protein Shake, each with 180 calories but solid food was on the way out.

He was awake when I arrived this morning. He recognized me and wanted to speak but had a hard time getting out any words. I brought up the subject of his party and told him when I dropped by Starbucks this morning and that a friend had heard that the party was a great success. As I reminded him what a good time we had had, he said, “all the grandchildren were there.” A little later he was remembering his days on the milk route. I understood very little of what he said.

It took almost an hour for him to drink the orange juice that comes with his breakfast. Usually he drinks the whole glass quickly. Later he drank some Coke. Otherwise, he has shut down on eating and drinking. Oh, I forgot, he also ate a container of yogurt. That said, Larry and I feel he has made the shift from fighting to live to moving on to the end. The hospice nurse, came by. She quickly came to the same conclusion. I asked her once again how long he might have. She hesitated to predict but thought that it was a matter of days. I asked about the possible transfer to back to Mountain Valley at the end of the two-week period on in-patient hospice. She said that because of the leg problem she had decided that that is not likely. Mountain Valley probably would not be able to take care of it in the same way they can here. She didn’t say, but it was implicit in her comments, that Dad is not likely to live long enough to necessitate a move back to Life Care.

So how am I feeling now? On the whole, I am feeling much better than this time last week. I believe that is a result of two things. First, I have been grieving for a week. I think it is only natural that grief resides after a while. Second, during the week we have had some very special moments. One of those was Monday when he was both alert and talkative. Then on Tuesday he was talkative and happy even though he was partially delusional. Even Wednesday when he was wiped out for having been awake for some 36+ hours, he seemed at peace. It has only been yesterday afternoon and today that he has shifted back to looking like he is leaving us. This morning when I was with him by myself I choked up as I spoke to him. At that time he recognized me. Just a short time then he became unresponsive. A moment ago I spoke to him through his hearing device (so I know he could hear me), and he showed no sign at all that he heard me. That was how he was when one of his friends from his writing class came by this afternoon.

As Larry left, we were both choked up. It made me wonder if I am up to teaching the Sunday school class this Sunday. I had planned to do so. Finally, I called Don Barton this afternoon to ask if he would be my back-up in case something happened that I could not make it on Sunday. I am planning to teach on grief. Last week I was too emotional to do it. This Sunday I believe I can handle it and that it would make the lesson more relevant since I am going through the grief process myself.

I should say a number of people have asked how I am doing. I really do believe I am doing well. I also suspect that some think that I am in denial.