Farewell to a gentle man and a scholar

Tuesday May 28

There was light rain today, as if the heavens knew dear old Dad was departing, and the paths were being cleansed for him.

He waited, it seemed, until Robin, the hospice nurse, arrived. She washed her hands and read a story to him related by a veterinarian about a family about to lose its dog to cancer. The end was a variation on “everything I learned, I learned from my dog…”

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

When it’s in your interest, practice obedience.

Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory.

Take naps and stretch before rising.

Run, romp, and play daily.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoid biting, when a simple growl will do.

On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.

On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree.

When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout … run right back and make friends.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you have had enough.

Be loyal.

Never pretend to be something you’re not.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

She lovingly stroked his hair while she read this to him, and I sat respectfully back in an armchair at the foot of the bed. Somehow I didn’t think to go to his other side and hold his hand. She asked if there was anything else I wanted to say. I went to him, touched his arm, held his hand, and said, I don’t know if he’s comfortable… She pointed to him and said, say it to him. At that he let go. She said, He’s totally at peace, and very comfortable. She said she watched his tongue and knew. He kept breathing through her story, and once she finished, he took a couple more breaths and then he went. I stood there dumbfounded, feeling like an idiot for not seeing exactly when he took his last breath. It was 6:30pm. Hubs said he saw Dad take the last breath and let go.

I felt guilty for spending the last hour of his life in the kitchen with Mom, showing her Dr. Oz on her smart phone. Mike spent most of the day with Dad, quietly in the living room, whereas I buzzed here and there, occasionally stopping to cool his fever with cold compresses, and moisten his mouth. I relayed messages to Dad, told him Dr. Jehan (his opthalmologist) called to say he was one of their favorite patients and they took special care with him; that he was very special to them because of his kindness, gentleness, and charm; that he was the same age as Dr. Jehan’s own father and therefore made him think of his father; that Dad had given him an example of his scientific papers and Dr. Jehan read them and appreciated his epidemiology work. Melinda, the opthalmology nurse who wheeled Dad to ER on April 26 had called earlier to check on him. They both said he would stay close in their thoughts and prayers. I thought that was above and beyond compassionate.

Yesterday Dad could still shake his head yes and no. He would suck on a toothette dipped in water to moisten his mouth. I read passages from the Bible to him, but my weeping probably made for lousy reading. His eyes remained half open through the past two days. The hospice nurse was finally able to close them tonight.

Hubs says I did just what I should have done and I should stop beating myself up.

On this last day we arrived early to head off a possible terrorist attack on my Mom (by my brother). As it turned out, she went to his apartment to sort out the visiting nurse’s exam/removal of sutures and run him around. The long absence made me nervous. Dad’s breathing, which was labored but regular in the morning, had changed to the spaced breathing they say precedes death. Hubs judiciously placed morphine drops in his mouth every two hours. She finally came home and had enough time to get over the trauma of the day before the nurse arrived. We had some quiet time with Dad around 5pm…

Earlier in the day I found some books I wanted to keep and I placed them in a box. It’s sort of symbolic of what I’ll be doing in the days to come.

I ate watermelon when we got home. It reminded me of Dad, of how much he enjoyed watermelon and oranges in his final days. I will miss him calling me by my childhood nickname, miss the fruit he constantly brought us, miss how he adored Hubs, miss the kindness and determination to find the good in this difficult world. I’m glad his suffering has ended and he no longer has to face frustrations, big and small.

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10 thoughts on “Farewell to a gentle man and a scholar

  1. it sounds like your dad was surrounded by family and loved ones. you were near by. that is all that matters. may he rest in peace. and thank you, once again, for sharing. *hug*

    • thanks, shy. however difficult it was, i’m glad we had the extra time with him, that we could reciprocate the care he’d given us all our lives, and surround him with love in his final days. *hugs* back, I need all I can get ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Jazz, I’m with Hubs on this one (be gentle with yourself). It sounds, as much as such a thing is possible, like a beautiful passing. I love the story the hospice nurse chose to read. And I love you. May your father rest in peace.

    Linnea

    • Linnea, as one who has seen so much death in the past few months and several years, you know the anger and sadness that is inevitable with lung cancer. Even though I knew that was what took my father, those feelings and my own weakness fell away and I focused on being present for him. I want to think he went peacefully, and felt loved, in spite of the other commotion. I want to think he is whole again, in that other place.

      I love you too. And I wish the best for us and the brave souls on our Ark, and the equally brave souls who care for us in ways big and small.

  3. I think, no matter how much we do, we find regrets to grind our teeth against. I wasn’t with my mother when she died; her Hospice caretakers had sent me home to make arrangements for her cremation. The last hours of her life, I was on Google getting contact information for a local crematorium and, later, cuddled with my husband on the couch. I was her only daughter. I had moved 900 miles to take care of her, but wasn’t there holding her hand when she breathed her last breath…it still bothers me sometimes, even though the Hospice caretakers made a point of saying sometimes patients waited until they were alone or the room had at least cleared out before finally letting go.

    I hope, in time, rather than take yourself to task for what you did or did not do in his last hour, his final minutes, you reflect and respect yourself as a daughter and the way your relationship changed over all your years together. I love the messages in the story of the dog’s lessons and think it was a beautiful reflection to carry him out of this life.

    And, mostly, I hope for peace and kindness for you.

    • Oh, Angelique, how you clear the clouds once again. Thank you for sharing your story with me. You’re right, there will always be niggling things that we can’t possibly see under duress, things that seem easy or obvious in a normal light. And yes, our relationship only became what it is as I’ve grown older and understood the trials he went through to give us the life we took for granted as kids. Finally, it’s true, I’ve heard so often that people often wait for a moment alone to let go.

      Dad was a vet but he was also artistic. I hope I can create something to commemorate him that might help my Mom a bit…

    • Thanks, Bernie. Big hugs to you. I can only hope there’re good things ahead. This is one of those times when I wish I could take a long backpacking trip and disappear for awhile. Heck, I’d even take just a camping trip! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Jas, don’t beat yourself up. Your dad was aware that it was YOU that was there with him, reading to him, doing whatever was needed for him. Just your mere presence alone meant alot to him. He knew that it’s YOU that has been there for them, and will be there for your mom and I’m sure that gave him peace of mind. He raised a smart, beautiful, kind, generous and loving daughter…he saw and was proud of who his little girl had become. I’m sad to know he’s gone and we’ll miss him. As for that camping trip, come to FL and camp in my guest room anytime, have some quiet time at the beach ๐Ÿ™‚ Love you Cuz, Carol

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