I am jumping all the way to the end of my dad’s story, because today marks 4 months that he has been gone. I’ve reflected for most of the day today about my final time with my dad. Thinking back to four months ago – July 12 – I woke up and never thought it was my dad’s last day of life. I was incredibly depressed, stressed, exhausted – both physically & mentally, because it had been almost 2 weeks of practically living at the hospital. I think I got out of bed late in the day because I just didn’t want to face reality for one day. Laying in bed, or sleeping, let me pretend that my dad was not sick, and I didn’t have to accept reality. I have so much regret that I chose that day to stay in bed for most of the day.
I remember telling my mom that I didn’t feel good, because I didn’t want to admit that I was just in bed all day avoiding reality. She had suggested I not come to the hospital, because my dad couldn’t risk getting sick. I ended up getting up, and going to eat with Justin before we went to the hospital, because he insisted I needed to eat. (Throughout the course of my dad’s illness, I would often forget to eat, or simply not have an appetite due to worrying about everything that I had absolutely no control over.) We went to Old Chicago, which was close to the hospital. By the time we got done it was around 6:30-7:00pm.
Justin and I went to the hospital to see my dad after dinner, and when I walked into the room there was a book on the bedside table. “Gone From My Sight,” was a short book that hospice had left for my family to read. I was internally freaking out, but trying not to let it show because I couldn’t let my dad see me scared. I was a bit confused why the book was there, I did not realize that it really was the end of his battle with cancer. We had thought through certain moments within his hospital stay that there were chances we may lose him, but I never actually thought it was going to happen, let alone that night.
My brother left shortly after I got there, and it was just mom, Justin, and I sitting around my dad. After a little while, maybe 15-20 minutes, my dad told us all to leave and that the wanted to go to sleep. Something inside me told me the inevitable was going to happen, but I kept trying to convince myself that I was overreacting. My mom and Justin kept telling me to respect my dad’s wishes and leave, but I had a bad feeling. They left the room and I stayed to have some alone time with my dad. I asked him if he wanted me to stay , he responded with nodding his head to say “yes.” He followed the “yes” with “I love you so much.” Hearing him say, “I love you so much,” something about that moment confirmed what I had already felt was going to happen. I stayed in his room for a while and just sat there holding his hand and staring at him, and continuously asking if he needed anything, and saying I love you. I did not want to leave, at all. When the nurses came in to take his vitals, they told me the vitals were good, and so I decided to leave. I had a very unsettling feeling , however I know my dad wanted to go to sleep. As I left the room, he told me to come back early in the morning around 7:00 am before he was scheduled for dialysis.
On my way home, just as I was about to get home, a weird feeling came over me and I felt that my dad had died. I glanced at what time it was. I got home, but didn’t get ready for bed like I normally would have. I actually sat down in my hallway and read the book from hospice, “Gone From My Sight.” Why I chose to sit down and read that short book immediately after getting home is beyond me. As I read it, I could relate every symptom of actively dying to my dad. Just as I finished reading the book, Justin called me and told me that my mom had called him to come pick me up to go back to the hospital. I said no, that I would meet him there, because otherwise it would take to long. We didn’t know what was going on, because my mom didn’t say.
I vividly remember driving – speeding – to the hospital, I pulled up right as Justin pulled up. We went through the emergency room entrance because we thought the main entrance was already closed. My mom and Uncle Gary were in the main entrance waiting for us, they didn’t realize we were going in through the ER entrance. We took the elevators closest to the ER up to my dads floor, and I just almost ran down to his room, I wanted to get there as fast as possible. As we turned the corner to his room, the chaplain was leaving his room, and there was a flower on the door. I think I looked at Justin with the most horrified look because my worst fear had happened/was happening. He tried holding me back and I ran into the room. My dad was gone. The “rock” of my whole life was gone. I think I was in shock because I couldn’t accept that he was gone. I just kept thinking this is not happening. I truly didn’t know how to comprehend that I didn’t have my dad in my world anymore. I also realized that when I had the premonition of his passing, he actually did pass away around that time. God works in mysterious ways and sends signs/messages if you pay attention. It may have slightly prepared me, having the premonition that he had passed away. Why else would I have immediately sat down and read that book, instead of getting ready for bed like I normally would have done?
I learned in that moment at the hospital that life is such a precious gift, because in a fleeting second, it can be taken away. I also realized that I never had a “final” conversation with my dad and I never told him how much I appreciated his love, generosity, forgiveness, and just his sense of being present, and being my dad for 28 years. I know he knew I loved him, but I regret not accepting the inevitable and taking advantage of the time that I had with him to tell him how much he truly meant to me. I also carry around this guilt that I shouldn’t have left the hospital that night. People respond with, “He waited till you left,” but that honestly does not make me feel better. I should have stayed with him, but there is nothing I can do now to change the past. I have to move forward and rebuild my life, because life keeps going on. – Plus, my dad would be furious if I didn’t move on.
My reason for writing this in-depth description of the night my dad died, isn’t to necessarily relive the night. It is a night I will never forget, but most of the time, I want to forget what transpired after I left the hospital when my dad was still alive. This blog post is to try and get across a message that many people often tend to forget – Please enjoy and cherish the time that you have with family and friends, because there is no way of knowing when it will be the last time you see someone. Don’t skimp on saying “I love you,” because it may be the last time you get to tell that to someone – don’t skimp on the hugs either. Everyone can always use a hug. I’ve noticed people don’t hug others as much as they used to. A simple hug could make someone’s day “that” much better. That is one of the things I miss the most from my dad. He would always randomly give me hugs and tell me he loved me. Appreciate all the little moments that you have with someone. It doesn’t have to be the big events that you share with people, it can simply be a moment where you are sitting on the couch watching television. Just being in the presence of others should be something that is appreciated, instead of being taken for granted.
Family and friends are so important. If there is any other advice I can give from this posting, it would be to tell a friend “thank you” for just simply being a friend. I do not know how I would have gotten through these last four months without the support and love from my friends and family. I still have hard days, but I’m able to get through them with all of the people around me. True friends and family stay by you through thick and thin, in hard time and in good times. They won’t judge you if you have to have a mini breakdown on the phone for a couple hours one night, or if you have an angry moment because you don’t understand why things in life happened the way that they did. Luckily, I am blessed with a few of those in my life, and I thank each of you (you know who you are) for being there for me.
July 12, 2013 was an end to a part of my life, and a beginning for another. I know that my dad is in heaven watching down on me and that he will always be my guardian angel until the day that we meet again.