Friday, July 27, 2012

Dad's Angel (Final Hours)

I've spent the past 24 hours trying to get things sorted.  Important things.  Feelings.  Details.  List making.  Everyday things.  Dressing.  Eating.  Things that I do automatically without a second thought.  I'm wearing the cloak of grief (again) and those tasks that I take for granted have become difficult to achieve.  I'm in a surreal place right now.  Sort of like walking between two worlds:  life and death.

The events leading up to my current state of mind vividly replay.  Images that flood me with a mixture of feelings that take me away from what I intend to do vs. what I hope to achieve.

On Tuesday evening, Mom and I sat with Dad as we have done every night.  He had developed a high fever.  I attempt to cool him with compresses.  My mother asks me why his body has morphed into a furnace.  I have no answer .  Nothing works to relieve the fever.  It's as though his internal thermostat has broken.  I continue to apply the compresses and moisten his mouth, but it's a losing battle.

At 9:30 PM, Dad's breathing pattern has changed from one of measured respirations to labored, unequal inhalations and exhalations.  I speak to the Hospice nurse who tells me this happens when the end is near.  Strangely, I did not panic, although it seemed to be a viable option.  I call upon everything within me to be present for Mom and Dad.  After a short while the labored breathing quiets a bit.  Crisis averted?

Midnight arrives and I encourage my mother to go to bed.  She's been staying up far too long.  She agrees and says goodnight to Dad.  She's weary, worried, and scared.  I assure her I'll stay up with Dad.

At 1 AM, I look over at Dad while at the same time I feel a funny sensation in my chest.  Not painful.  A feeling of warmth.  It's as though my heart has swollen with love.  A comforting feeling that I can't explain.  I sit by his bed continuing to cool and comfort him.  His labored breathing has returned only this time it has slowed and I count the seconds between each breath.  The engine that is his body slows.  At last he takes one final breath.   It's over.  He has passed before my very eyes.  I notice the time on the clock.  It's 1:11 AM.  I wake my mother and gently break the news.  She leaves her bedroom to say goodbye to her husband of 64 years.

Throughout my life and in the days leading up to his death when asked, "What would you like to pray for?" his answer never waivered.  Dad prayed for peace. He yearned for it.  Craved it.   That's all he ever wanted.  Never prayed for one material thing.  Only peace.  Peace in the world.  Peace in his home..  Peace for those he loved.

As the funeral personnel gently lifted him on the stretcher, I noticed his face.  He had arrived.  He had reached that place of peace.  One might describe his look as angelic.  His angel had found him and taken him home. 

My emotions ebb and flow.  The inner child within me cries out, "I want my Dad!"  That little girl who sat on her father's lap as he read to her needs comfort, love, reassurance.  The adult daughter, the mature daughter, knows Mom needs my presence.  She requires comfort.  She needs love.  The caregiver in me needs to step up, despite my feelings of profound sadness.

Later in the day, my best friend and her daughter, Katie,  visit.  Katie won a garden statue during a fundraiser she and I worked on recently - an angel.  A blessed angel.  A visible reminder of the unseen things that take place on this earth.  A reminder of what's truly important.

Rest in your heavenly peace, Dad.  I love you.  Thank you for being my father.

Dad's Angel

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