Wednesday, January 23, 2008

When my Dad died

I've been looking over my post and notice I haven't ever posted about what it was like when my Dad died. I've told about it several times, but haven't yet journaled it, so here goes. As difficult and surreal as it was, it was also beautiful.

We got the kids to bed and asked my Mom if she wanted to sleep on the couch (my Mom, Mark, and I had been sleeping in the bed next to my Dad's hospital bed getting up with him in the night to help him with his needs--keeping his mouth moist, giving him morphine, etc.). Mom jumped at the chance to get some rest, so she settled in on the couch. During all of that, I felt content by my Dad's side. I'd been cuddling with him for few days before that, but he was obviously getting worse and I wanted to be with him without making him uncomfortable in any way (moving the bed too much, etc., as he has feared falling). So, I sat by his bed side and held his hand and kept rubbing his arm up and down. I would alternate between looking at him and simply resting my head on his bed. I just didn't feel like going to bed. I wanted to be with him.

Mark came over and rubbed my neck a bit and we quietly smiled tired smiles at each other. I looked up at my Dad's face and his eyes were open (that happened rarely). I felt energized and said happily, yet softly, "Hi Daddy! I love you." I reached up and stroked his face. His eyes met mine but there was little emotion to be read in them as his face and eyes were getting so expressionless. I asked Mark to get my Mom since my Dad always wants to see my Mom (constantly asking for her, etc.). I didn't particularly feel that he was about to die; I simply figured he'd want to see my Mom. I was constantly trying to be respectful of his wishes to have her by his side even though I know she was a bit nervous about it. My Dad seemed scared--I know he didn't want to be alone when he died. The hospice papers explain that it happens that people become alert just before dying. Again, I didn't necessarily think that was happening, but we knew it was a possibility as he was fading and we couldn't figure out how he was still hanging on. We'd all had our "goodbye" speeches with him and were basically waiting for him to die whenever it was time.

My Mom came in and I moved to the other side of the bed so he could see her better. I rested my hands on Dad's shoulders and watched through tears as my Mother called him by name and caressed his face and told him she loved him. His eyes widened--there was a reaction more than there had been in days. He looked at her in earnest, unable to speak. He opened his mouth and closed it again. He did that twice. I don't know if he was trying to tell her something or give her kisses, but he was trying to express something to her. We all expressed our love to him. Mark stood by my mother and she wondered aloud if that was it--if Dad was about to die. None of us were sure and didn't know what to make of it. After his earnest look at her and his attempt to express something, likely his love for her, he took a couple of breaths and then closed his eyes and died.

We all looked at his chest, waiting for him to take more breaths, looking at each other wondering if he'd really just died. Could it be? My Mom started to cry and asked Mark, "Did he?" Mark, wondering himself but strongly suspecting (as we all were) watched for a second and then felt for a pulse. He then put his head to my Dad's chest to listen for a heartbeat. My mom started to plead and cry, "Is he??" He lifted his head slowly and gently nodded saying, "He's gone." My mother bent at the waist and began to sob calling out for her "Roberto" and crying the tears she had kept holding back all week. "Oh meu Roberto, Oh meu Roberto!" Mark held her. I cried and looked at my Dad and listened to my mother sob. It was so . . . difficult? Cathartic? Emotive? What word can you possibly use?? Mark held me, too. My Dad had died. How could we cry so much and so hard when that was what we were all waiting for? It was wrenching.

We woke the kids and told them. We woke them to have them come in and say goodbye to Vavo. Better to do that than for them to be confused when he wasn't there in the morning. We were matter-of-fact about it yet gentle, explaining that it's okay to cry and that we're sad because we miss him but we're happy that he's not suffering. We talked a bit about our bodies and spirits, pulling out a glove to sort of illustrate it. The hospice nurse (who later arrived) told us we handled it beautifully. We got the kids back to bed at a neighbor lady's house since there was a lot of crying, visitors, hospice paperwork, funeral home arrivals, and the like going on at my parents' house. We all hugged and kissed my Dad. The hospice nurse got him washed and dressed. My aunt (my Dad's sister) held his hand and cried over him and stayed with him the entire time until the men from the funeral parlor took his body. My mother and I went into the bathroom during that and cried and cried. My mom couldn't bear to watch. I'm so glad that my Aunt Alda stayed with my Dad. It was a strange night--such a mix of emotions and task: filling out papers, dumping out medicine, logistics, phone calls, feeling relief, feeling sad, feeling strange, feeling tired yet awake, feeling things you couldn't even really label well. All so surreal.

I saw my Dad die. As difficult as it was, I'm so grateful I was there with him, by his side, touching him, telling him of my love for him, seeing the love expressed between my mother and father--that was a beautiful, moving, and touching gift. We love and miss him. I love him, I miss him, and I am proud to have him as my father. My sweet, sweet, good, kind, wonderful, gentle Daddy.


Anonymous said...

Stacy, Thanks for the post about your Dad. I don't usually read blogs but when I saw yours pop up on Jens screen I had to read it. I wanted to thank you for telling about his death because I have fond memories of your Dad. Even though they are few I will never forget his face, his smile and his accent. I especially will not forget the day I almost threw him down the stairs. I recently watched two people actually die in front of me but those instances are so detached. Hearing your story brings me back to the reality that there are family and friends who loved those people and have a strong emotional bond with them. As I read your post I felt some of that emotion and wanted to comment and thank you for sharing. Allan-

Anonymous said...

Wow. What a beautiful and at the same time heart wrenching moment. I can't imagine. Thanks for sharing. We love you!

emily said...

so special! what a special memory!

i was with my grandma when she passed away. my parents had come up to byu to take my brother through the temple before the mtc, and she was clearly fading and we all knew it would possibly happen while they were gone. i was 16 and alone with her. it's one of the greatest and most special memories of my life. hospice was great with her and took care of everything, i called a family friend and they came and told me to go downstairs so i wouldn't see them take her out and i'm so glad i have the memories i do of that last, sweet day alone with her. i'm glad you'll have those memories of your dad, i really am. when the pain fades, i bet you will be too!

Robynne said...

Those are beautiful memories Stacy! You do a great job of expressing your feelings and explaining everything - I think you will be so glad to have this in the future!!!