This past few weeks has been such a blur of travel, visitors, hospital, hospice, 40-50 phone calls per day, 5-10 people in and out of the house each day, house closing, financial arrangements for my mom, moving arrangements and more. Mostly, we spent the time with my dad and/or honoring his last wishes.
On Friday and Saturday, my dad had the family reunion he had hoped for, as all three of his brothers and their wives came into town before my brother left for Chicago. My dad was so happy to see everyone together again, and each person got to say a personal goodbye to my dad. While my dad rested, we all spent quality time together at some good local restaurants and got caught up on the time since my grandmother passed in 2013. Some of them had seen each other since then, but not all together. The big family meals celebrated my dad’s life and all he had done for my grandmother.
David arrived last Sunday, and my dad immediately had the father-son-caregiver-to-caregiver talk he’d been so looking forward to. My dad felt a strong bond with David, because both of them took care of their parents — David continuing to care for both of his, my dad having cared for my Grandma Van for 37 years. My dad was so cute during that conversation. He had obviously given David’s situation a great deal of consideration, and he looked like a Zen Master in his hospital bed, with closed eyes, folded hands, and then quiet insights and words of wisdom. It turned out to be perfect timing, as we spoke for about an hour and a half. My dad didn’t have that kind of stamina after Sunday.
On Monday, he went for a platelet infusion, and one of his favorite ministers from my mom’s church surprised him there with a prayer session. Even though the journey and treatment took hours, my dad arrived home extremely lucid and enthused — quite different than his usual knocked out response to platelets. He and I spoke for awhile that evening, and he said, “Laura, this was a good day!” By then, I had arranged a date for their move, and we were on countdown to signing the paperwork for my parents’ new house.
Tuesday was a very rough day for him, but fortunately, by that point, we had a live in caregiver who had already really bonded with my dad. She made that day as easy as possible for him, as did various hospice visitors, while my mom, David and I ran all the errands and made and answered the avalanche of phone calls related to their move, his care, relatives, and setting things into place for my mom. Somewhere in there, due to David’s extra support, I managed to get caught up on most of the previous week’s cancelled phone sessions.
Wednesday, my mom, David and I met the realtor at the new house for the walk through and then attended the signing with my mom, while I kept my sister and brother apprised of any developments and got my mom’s utilities set up and switched over to her name. Their power of attorney wasn’t strong enough for my mom to sign for the house on her own, so the title company woman drove to my parents’ house and waited for nearly two hours as I coached my dad through all those signatures, held the clipboard for him, and ensured he got sufficient breaks along the way. She was wonderful. It was heartbreaking seeing how difficult signing his name had become for my dad, but we all knew this was a key goal for him before he passed. He did it!
On Tuesday night, I had let my dad know we wanted to take my mom out to celebrate the house signing and asked if he wanted us to bring him anything on Wednesday for his own celebration. He suggested taking my mom to a Turkish restaurant near their home and asked for us to bring him a Menchie’s frozen yogurt on our way home, since the places were next door to each other. Even though my dad had eaten nothing for days at that point, he made sure to eat his celebratory vanilla frozen yogurt! He thanked me, kissed my hand, and said he loved me. He finished the other half of his yogurt on Thursday morning, and then slipped into a largely non-responsive state.
Thursday was a rough day for him — and for all of us who heard him suffering. We switched prayers for healing to prayers for a swift and easy transition. By evening, a night nurse with a lot of experience at this stage came for an overnight stay and helped us to figure out which medications would help and which increased his agitation. She got him calmed down, but he was still somewhat restless into Friday, when we had arranged for a massage therapist/Reiki Master from hospice to be here, as well as his minister. My sister took off work that day, too, and read him a message and some verses from a minister my dad had really connected with before the pastor moved to Texas. As the hospice worker sent Reiki to my dad’s feet, I sent it to his crown, so he was bathed in healing energy for much of the morning. I had trained my sister last July to Reiki Level 1, and she gave him a lot of Reiki during that time, too.
Yesterday afternoon, I realized for sure that he would not make it until next Wednesday, when we had the appointment with the funeral home, so I called to see if they could meet with us sooner. David agreed to stay with my dad while my mom, sister and I made arrangements to honor him in an appropriate way. David says that as soon as we sat down for the meeting with the funeral director, my dad’s breathing changed, and his body became completely peaceful. He remained that way for the rest of the day.
Since David had planned to leave this morning, he and I met my sister and nephews out for gluten-free vegan pizza to help them process losing their grandpa. My mom and a caregiver my dad knew were both here while we ate dinner. We all had a good time together, and then Google maps directed David and me a truly bizarre way to get home. As a result, we passed the ABE airport, and I remembered all the times my dad had dropped me off there, all the goodbyes. I cried and told David, “My dad’s never going to drop me off at the airport again.” Then I remembered how happy my dad was when my flight got cancelled after Grandma Van’s funeral. He picked me up again after hours at the airport and even though he’d need to drive me there at 5 a.m. the next day, he said, “I’m so glad you missed your flight. It felt too sudden to have you leave so fast. I’m glad we’ll get the extra time together.”
When David and I returned home last night, I sat with my dad for awhile, gave him some Reiki, kissed his forehead and said I love you and goodbye. My father passed very peacefully around 8:30 p.m. East Coast time last night (3/11/16). I had just said my goodbye and stepped into the shower. David and my mom ran up to say my father had stopped breathing. I threw on some clothes, ran downstairs and put my hand on his heart, which was still beating strongly. I gave him Reiki until his heart stopped, so he passed with Reiki, me, David and my mom there, plus a nice caregiver he had met before and liked. It was as peaceful as someone could pass. So glad I came when I did, and David and I felt he would pass while we were both here.
My sister and I agreed that I’ll post my dad’s prayer testimonial she read two Sunday’s ago as my blog’s memorial service to my dad. I had written his eulogy while he still lived, so that he could read it. Not only did my dad read that eulogy, but he printed it out and read it each morning “to strengthen” him. My sister and I both independently had the idea for me to post his speech on my blog, and I will do so on the day of his memorial service. We’re still making arrangements.
Last night, after hospice and the funeral home had taken care of my dad’s body, we spent time with my mom and then got ready for bed. As we were in my dad’s old bathroom, I clearly heard my dad say, “Thank you, Laura.” Then he paused and said with delight, “Wow, it’s really nice up here!” Another pause, and then, “Tell your mother I love her.”
My dad, who always loved his physical space, got his new home after all — just much more expansive than he imagined. His parakeet, Buddy, has been very subdued all week, but this morning, he started singing and ringing his bell to the point where David said, “Maybe Buddy’s singing to Steve right now.” Buddy cocked his head at us and went on singing.
Revel in Paradise, Dad! We love you!