It’s unbelievable that time has gone by in what seems so fast. March 23rd, 2004 was the most heart wrenching moment I would have to ever face, so I thought. That was the day my mom died. There are moments in life when it seems like it was just a few days ago and at times it seems like a lifetime ago. I miss her incredibly and at times I’m not even sure what that means. But, today…..today really sucked. For the past seven years on this day, I would go sit next to my dad and he would give me a hug. He didn’t care if I cried. So, today it’s really him that I am missing.
I get a little confused in my head sometimes when I remember the moment of my grandmother’s death and how my mom told me, as I watched her cry, that one day I would understand when she was gone how much harder it was to lose your mom. I think maybe she wasn’t as lucky to have such an awesome dad like I did. I don’t know since he died the week before I turned one. Then of course there are the family stories and if any of that is true, I definitely got the better parent!
It’s also hard because I’ve fought back and forth between the sadness and the peace. I miss my dad so incredibly much that my heart breaks just like it did when she died. I sometimes would feel guilty after he died with all of the “what-ifs.”
December 9th, 2016……I stood in the hallway as they rolled my dad back for surgery. I couldn’t even look at him. After sitting in the same waiting room as I had the day before, I recall being quite irritated with the priest from his church but let him say the prayer for my dad anyway. I didn’t understand why he couldn’t stay and was not in a place to argue that he should stay and my dad would be out of surgery soon. Didn’t he get what I had just been through? Thank goodness Jen was there to help deal with him or I might have punched that priest.
After the surgery, we followed him back down the long hallway to the next building. It was there that I couldn’t go to him, as they wheeled him into that room. Finally, I stood there long enough for the doctor to say something. I then went in and all I could say was “I’m sorry.” I cried. I cried because how could I do this to him? How could I cause him pain? This isn’t what we discussed. This wasn’t what was written on the DNR paperwork. This wasn’t how it was suppose to happen. But then yet it was…….
There was no way I could go with losing another parent and not having them tell me they love me. I understand my mom was in so much pain. I knew dad was in pain. I was so sorry they pounded on his chest and shocked him back to life. And now, now he had a tube down his throat to breathe for him. I looked in his eyes and asked if he knew how much I loved him. He nodded yes. He held my hand and squeezed it. I looked at him with such sadness looking back at me. I was so sorry. I didn’t know what to say or what to do. I worked really hard to keep coming to see him over the next two days as much as I could.
Monday, I got word that he had been extubated. I didn’t know he was going to be on the full face mask but he was. He tried to talk to me a little. I still hadn’t heard what I needed to hear. He encouraged me to go to work and to go home the last two days so I could be with Alice. I stayed with him a while and held his hand. After I left, it was only a couple of hours later, I got a call…… Med City said the caller ID. My heart sank.
The doctor told me not to drive myself. I ran through the house getting dressed and out the door to the neighbors to have them watch Alice. I couldn’t yell any more than I did at Cary to drive faster. Once there, I jumped from the car and ran, ran like dad couldn’t run, yelling “Oh my God” the whole way to the 4th floor and through the waiting room, past a blur of other families standing there…… For the next 15 hours I sat next to his bed.
When I first ran into his room, he looked at me with such intensity in his eyes and told me, “My time is short.” Over the next couple of hours I sat watching him. I would try to lie down in the waiting room for a little bit off and on but just got back up and went next to his bed. At one point, he was swirling his finger around and said, “light.” I asked him over and over during this time if my mom was there. He would shake his head no. He did the same when I asked if grandma or grandpa was there. It was when I asked him if Jesus was there that he shook his head yes. I felt such relief and peace with knowing this. It wasn’t until later that I realized in talking with someone I trust with all my heart that yes my mom was there….. she was part of the light.
It was early morning and another wonderful soul who is like a mother to me showed up to be with me. She stayed right by my side until his last breath. I don’t know how she knew I needed her but I did and she was there.
In all of what seemed to be the chaos of those last moments, I would say have no regrets. But I did for a moment. I left him lying in that room when it was over with his mouth open and for whatever reason that bothered me. Maybe because it was a reminder that he had lost a tooth and we had not taken the time nor spent the money to have his other teeth pulled. But, he had been so stubborn and I wasn’t really sure knowing with his medical history he would have made it through the surgery. Hadn’t I been taking care of the other doctor appointments? I had tried. Maybe I felt guilty that we didn’t go the cardiologist sooner than we had. Maybe the shame of feeling like I didn’t do enough to take care of him after I had promised my mom I would. I don’t know. It was all so overwhelming at times. But, I know that I could only stand there and hold his hand….this man who held me as a baby, carried me when I was little, taught me about life, took care of me, and loved me unconditionally……. was gone. Just like that…..no more heartbeat no more breathing no more moments no more……..
It took many hours that morning, days later and even weeks later to realize that I did everything I was suppose to do. I let him have his dignity. I let him make the choice to stop the medicine pumping his heart and let him choose to stop the oxygen mask. And that, as his daughter, was all I could do. I’m still sorry for any pain I caused…..that will take some time to heal.
But, after his mask came off, I heard it. I heard him say, “I love you too.” And that was what I needed. As selfish as it may have been, I needed that.
I miss him…… a lot.