One year ago today, my father died. It kind of hit me like a slap across the face today. For some reason, I have no idea why, I feel drawn to writing about the moment of his death. It sounds terribly morbid, I'm sure. I'm not sure if Mel from Stirrup Queen's recent post on birth and death has had me thinking back to those last 2 days, or of this is some kind of therapy that I need to get through. Nonetheless, please be forewarned that I am going to reveal details of my father's death here, so if such a topic would disturb you or cause upset, you may leave this site now.
I remember quite clearly the phone call my mother received early in the morning from the hospital. She told me that we needed to go now, that this was it, time to say goodbye. I left SchmoopyBoy with the husband at my mother's house and accompanied her to his hospital room. I knew it was going to be bad, but I simply was not prepared for what I saw. There he laid, completely unconscious, on full life support - the very state he made us all promise he would never be in. It was too much to take, and I lost it. So much for being strong for my mother.
The unbelievable thing about it was the rapidness of his deterioration. When I had first arrived in town 2 days ago, his eyes were open. He held the pictures of him and SchmoopyBoy we had taken at our last visit. It was so like all the other times he had been in and out of the hospital. He did have a twitch in one of his arms, and it was verified that the twitch was being caused by seizures. The doctor wanted to put him on a seizure medication. I challenged it. The twitch was a bit of a annoyance, particularly when he was trying to eat, but ultimately harmless, and the doctor even admitted that it might go away on it's own - it would just take longer. I argued for a bit that he was already on so much medication, if this was unnecessary we shouldn't approve it. In other words, I was 'the difficult one' trying to stand in the way of my sick father getting some relief. I relented. Perhaps I should not have. The next day his condition was exponentially worse. He was unable to open his eyes or eat - both conscious and unconscious. The doctor said that the seizure medication was making him sleepy, that it was counter-productive for his condition to be in such a state - unable to eat, unable to cough up the fluid filling his lungs - and that he would discontinue the medication. But it was too late. The next morning we got the call.
I do not think I can fairly blame the seizure medication. I do not blame myself, the doctor, or my other family members for insisting that he get the medication. It is entirely possible that his condition would have deteriorated regardless of it. For crying out loud, he had originally gone into the hospital for a routine pace-maker installation. The vast, vast majority of patients walk out of the hospital after a day or two. Going into respiratory failure and congestive heart failure the night after the surgery put him off the bell curve altogether.
Back to the morning of March 28, 2010. I met my sister at the entrance and told her that this was it, this was goodbye. My mother sat down in a chair on the side of the room and started to cry. I sat beside her and put my arm around her. My sister stood next to my dad and held his hand. After a few moments she announced simply "He's gone". My mother and I jumped up, and sure enough, all the monitors showed flat lines. He had waited for us. He had waited until all three of us got a chance to arrive, so we could be together and say goodbye before he left us. It appeared peaceful. It appeared painless.
About a week after his death, my mother got what she believes was a sign from my father. A sign that he is ok and he wants her to be ok -that she should move on and make a happy life for herself without him. This was enormously comforting for her and she was, in fact, able to move on quite quickly. I, on the other hand, don't know that I've been able to stop grieving yet. Maybe by telling this story I can find some peace. Maybe by articulating "I should have fought harder against that fucking unnecessary seizure medication" I can alleviate some of the guilt that I was too willing to be seen as "not unreasonably difficult" and "not unreasonably obstructionist". I didn't like it. I didn't like it one bit and I should have stood by my intuition, which I constantly find so difficult to trust, despite its consistent accuracy. Like I mentioned before, I can't fairly blame the medication for his death. I'm just saying that I am disappointed with myself and don't know if I will ever be able to overcome the "what-if" that plagues me if I think about it too long and too hard.
Well, there you have it. I've now spilled my guts and I don't feel any better for it. Snot from tears mixed with snot from this unrelenting bug I've had for the past week. I am, to use 2 1/2 year old lingo, a snot monster. I will say I am grateful that I was able to be there for his final days, and his final moments. I'm glad I arrived in time to see him coherent, that he was able to see pictures of his grandson that he loved so much before his descent (no toddlers were allowed in his section of the hospital, so unfortunately he couldn't see SchmoopyBoy in person). I do believe he was there, waiting for us to be together before he left that morning. It comforts me that he knew the people who loved him most were there with him, that he knew he was loved and would be missed.
Dad, if you are still watching and listening, I love you. I miss you. Goodbye.