After an incredibly long fight my Dad finally let go in the early hours of May 23. Every day for weeks you could see the struggle within him; wanting his aging, ailing body, mind and soul to hang on, to stay here with his family and to live another 95 years.
My Dad’s final days were spent with his family surrounding him every chance they got. I spent a huge amount of time with him and have some very happy times I really want to share. Little things, like when we first played bird songs on my sister’s iPad and the smile that came across his face. He wasn’t really in the same world as we were at that point so this was really nice to see. He spent a lot of time in this another world so any indication that he heard us or recognized something else was wonderful and so very special.
The nurses all had stories to tell and all said how much they love him, how he was a favourite there. Dad was known for his hugs after putting up big battles whenever he had to be turned or changed as it gives him so much pain. He would fight, kick, hit and swear at the nurses and then, when they were done, calmly ask for each of them to give him a hug. They loved it and made it worthwhile they said.
The day before he died I was there with him and my sister. We were playing music from his era as well as songs he used to sing to us when we were little girls, all from his era as well. “You Beautiful Doll”, “I Did It My Way”, lots of Frankie and Bing and some Al Jolson. Of course it was hard not to cry when we heard these songs. We even sang them to him too. When he could still talk he told me, very politely, to stop singing please. So when he couldn’t talk anymore, I started singing to him again.
One song, “If You Were The Only Girl..” we played over and over because he seemed to react to it the most. I was holding his hand when he started tugging on it, urging me to get up off my chair. I did and his other hand was searching for my other one so I grasped our hands together. Suddenly, he started swinging my arms to the music! We were dancing! It was marvelous and my sister and I were laughing so hard and he was grinning as he was trying to push me over on one side then all the way over across his bed. Finally, his incredible strength got me to almost topple right on top of him where he had me in the most incredible bear hug and had my arms all twisted like a pretzel. I honestly couldn’t move! My sister was laughing so hard she finally managed to choke out, “need a little help?” I could only squeak, “yes please” when a nurse appeared, shocked at the spectacle and he let go. I will never forget that last dance with my Dad.
I spent a night there and would have spent many more but I was on baby alert, waiting for my grandson to arrive, which, as of this date and 10 days overdue, he has not. But I would spend all day every day with my Dad. Yesterday, though, my sister told me something was different and maybe I should get there quickly. So I took the hour-long bus ride earlier than I was going to, praying that he will hold on just long enough for me to say goodbye again and arrived there in plenty of time.
I leaned over him, giving him my killer smile as I always do, and, lo and behold, he smiled back, tried to say my name and wrapped his arms around me in a huge hug. After that though, his morphine was working and he really wasn’t conscious anymore. More family came to say goodbye and all we did for hours was watch his chest move up and down, then nothing, then up and down again. Fooled us many times. With his apnea, this was expected we were told. My sister and I were finally left alone with him for the night. My son was getting someone else to be on baby alert.
Before he finally let go my sister and I were trying to conjure up my mom so she could come and get him since he wouldn’t leave on his own. Not 3 hours later, I noticed his breath getting shallower and quieter. Then I went to his mouth and nose and felt for his breath. There were only one or two more breaths, then nothing. Still nothing. I checked his heartbeat and got my sister to call the nurse. The nurse came with her stethoscope and confirmed what we already knew. My mom found him and took him home at last.
It’s so hard to believe that this is over. My Dad is gone. An era is finished. It’s very strange not climbing on the bus everyday. It’s very strange not to hear him babble about his mom and dogs and horses and call me by his sister’s name or him thinking I’m his mom or even knowing it’s me. It’s very strange connecting to family I haven’t seen in months or years. It’s very strange to have the first love of my life leave this earth so quietly after arguing so much and so long with whomever is in charge of our length of time on Earth. That’s it. All done.
But my Mom did come and get him. I know she did. Thanks Mom. Love you both so much.