Christmas is almost here. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I am not ready, not even close. Even so, I feel like I need to get this blog post out of my head. Maybe it will help me to clear out things.
December 10th was a day that was supposed to be fun. I was in New York City with two of my kids on a bus trip when the call came. We were in Kinokuniya- a book store which was to be one of the main stops of the trip. Top floor, at the Ghibli display. I had just started to look at the selection.
I knew when I saw the number. It was the 2nd floor nursing station at the home where my dad has been since March 2005. I knew before she even started to talk. You see... Dad had been sick a couple of weeks before, but had rallied. He had pretty much come back to close to his previous self- well as good as it would get anyway. His good days were pretty in and out.
Truth is, my dad had not recognized me for years. He called me Barbara the last time he called me anything. He mostly gave me a pleasant - "oh hello" if he greeted me at all, if he was awake, when I visited. Visits were hard. There was no conversation to speak of, he would mostly utter gibberish in between a sentence or two if I was lucky. If he was awake. This wasn't my dad- my intelligent, witty, annoying, cheerful dad.
This was some shell of a person that on the outside looked something like the man who used to be my dad. But- this wasn't my dad. Everything that was him seemed to be gone. As a result, my visits became fewer and farther apart. Hard to admit, but it was so damn hard to visit- and it just kept getting harder. I struggled with this every. single. day.
That day at the book store, on a bus trip in NYC, when the phone rang, I already knew that it was going to be THAT phone call. I had sensed the night before that it would happen, so I wasn't surprised when it came. It didn't make it any easier.
"Your dad's condition has changed. His breathing has changed and we think he may pass away this afternoon" was the message she gave me. As I sank to the floor, I explained that I was in NY and would need to find a way home but that I would get there as quickly as I could.
My mind raced to think about the fastest way home and immediately I worked out what to do. Make my way to Port Authority, hop the next commuter bus home and pray I make it in time. My mom (obviously a saint) dropped everything to go and sit with him until I got there. Not too many women would do that for their ex-husbands, but I appreciate her so much for what she did that day. It gave me peace to know he wasn't alone until I got there.
The stars aligned and I only had to wait about 40 mins for a bus and I made it back in time after the two hour ride.
His breathing had certainly changed. It was very apparent that he was in a different place than the last time I saw him. It is so hard to see someone you care about suffer and I felt like he was suffering.
I stroked him and whispered to him. After a while, I decided that maybe he would like to hear some music, so I played him some songs. I queued up some songs on my phone and we shared my earbuds, one in my ear and I held the other to his ear. I have no idea if he heard them but I have to think if he did, he would have loved Pentatonix's version of Hallelujah. There were other songs as well, but that one is my favorite from that night. It makes me cry. It made me cry on the bus on the way there and it still makes me cry today- I suppose it always will. I hope he found some peace in the music.
Most of the time I was with him, I just had the overwhelming urge to keep saying "I'm sorry". I felt so sorry. Sorry that I let him down in some way. Sorry that I wasn't there for him. Sorry that the people that kept coming in didn't seem to know who I was or felt that I wasn't there enough for him. I felt like I wasn't enough to make this better even though I knew no one could. There was nothing rational in the guilt I felt (feel) but it was (is) overwhelming. It was compounded by listening to him breathe, or try to.
The palliative care wasn't cutting it yet. His nurse was trying, but it wasn't enough. He sounded like he was under water. It was excruciating. She gave him more medications. More people came by as word got out that he would be leaving this world soon. His aide of 7 years came by and chatted for quite a while- she had become family.
Finally, the medications and position changes gave him some relief. Nothing would stop the process, but he was having an easier time of it. This gave both of us the relief we needed. About this time, my mom came back. She didn't want me to be alone.
Gradually, his breathing became more shallow and the breaths came less frequently. I watched for his breathing and pulse.
The end came quietly and peacefully.
I am glad he is no longer suffering, but the guilt and overwhelming sadness are still with me. I am hoping they go away soon, or at least get better.
I know things will get better, time as they say....
A positive note- I have the most amazing people in my life. Those who sent cards, my aunt and uncle who sent the yummy Edible Arrangement and my amazing co-workers for the basket and card. I am very fortunate to have such wonderful people to lift me up in such difficult times. Most of all, my family who is dealing with me right now. It isn't easy. 💗