July 9, 1948 – Dec 6, 2013

My dad passed away on Friday, December 6 at 6:52am. I don’t even know how to describe it in words, and struggle with how much detail to share.  But I think death is an avoided topic, one which no one understands fully until it happens to you. So I will write a bit …

It took two days. During the first night, we chose to say goodbye. Just in case.  When my brother Dani stared at me scared and unsure of what to say, I told him,

“Don’t leave anything unsaid.  Don’t look back and wish you had said this or that.  Tell him you love him.  Ask him the questions you need answers to.  

Say everything.”

He came out and told me it was the best thing he’s ever done.  Then we sobbed together in the patient lounge on the fourth floor.

Several of my Dad’s friends came; but, I felt extremely ridiculous when my Dad started to improve the next day.  I went for lunch and came back to a Dad who was making jokes with nurses and smiling from ear to ear. What the hell Dad!

That night was the worst, though, and I couldn’t let go of his hand.
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My Dad’s wishes were not to be intubated or resuscitated, and he wanted me to make the decision if life-saving measures should be required.  But what I didn’t realize until now was that keeping him on oxygen and morphine was technically using life-saving measures.  He could have gone on like that for days, and he would’ve continued to – for us.  So after the 50th time he pulled the oxygen away and panicked when he couldn’t breathe, and after the 50th time I calmed and reassured him, I asked him if he wanted to give up the oxygen for good.  It was the hardest question I’ve ever asked.

He looked at me patiently, waiting.  Through blinding tears I told him that I loved him, was proud of him, and that if he needed my permission to go then he had it.

“We’re ready if you are Dad.  I’ll take care of Dani. I’ll be the best damn midwife you’ve ever seen, and will tell my babies and family about you. I’ll miss you every day, but Dad, if you need to go, it’s ok. I will be ok.”

His face changed immediately.  He became instantly peaceful and pulled the gas mask off, as though he had been waiting for me to say it. He gave me his giant, goofy, little-boy smile and his eyes sparkled. I couldn’t see through my tears.

I woke my brother and my aunt and told them it was time.  My aunt, incredulously, said, “Oh my God, how do you know?”

I don’t know how I knew, I just did. In the end, no one knew him better that I did, I guess.

I kneeled next to the bed and placed head on his hand, and watched his chest rise and fall … until it didn’t.  My brother and I looked at each other during the final breath and nodded in synch; somehow we knew that was the last one.

Watching him slowly stop breathing was both graphic and beautiful. I’m grateful I could be there to reassure him in his journey, but I’ll be haunted by those images for the rest of my life. I’m proud of myself, and I know he’s proud of me, for how strong I was able to be for him.  He would have been there for me, and I have more reassurance in having been there than not. But shit this is hard.

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I love you Daddy.  This doesn’t seem real. Just last week you were here.

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6 responses

  1. I’m so sorry you lost your Dad to cancer. I bawled my eyes out reading your post. He will be proud of you for letting him go. I had to do more or less the same thing with my Mum last month. Hugs to you and be comforted by the fact that he is no longer suffering.

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  3. Your words are said flawlessly when talking about this whole experience. That was a beautiful way to say goodbye, I know exactly all the emotions that went along with it all and your definitely right in saying until you’ve actually gone through it, you can’t possibly know. Hoping for strength and love to fill your life in all the days ahead.

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