Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies- “God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” – Kurt Vonnegut
Sitting at the bedside of a dying man is hard. Even harder when it is your father.
You watch the bedclothes to see if the breaths still come.
If the bed clothes don’t move, you jump up from your chair and put your hand on his chest to feel and count the next breaths.
You press you cheek to his forehead, hoping he hears, feels, and smells you to know that you are there.
You brush his hair, which amazingly, is not yet fully gray.
You hold him and feel the sharp and brittle bones of a skeleton body pressing against you.
You say “I love you” a lot.
You tell him “It’s okay, Dad. It’s okay to go. Mom is waiting for you.”
You have a lot of time to think.
…time to think about your childhood and his marvelous gifts to you.
…time to think about what happens in that very strange and mysterious netherworld between life and death.
…time to think about how much time you have left and how you are going to spend it.
My Father passed away on Wednesday night, after twelve days in a nether state. I am still processing all of the emotions.
So much is swirling in my head, I don’t even know how to write about it. I was so tired I slept ten hours on Friday and nine on Saturday.
But here’s one feeling I can put words to…
I am so grateful for the kindness of all the family and caregivers who surrounded my father and lovingly assisted him in his journey to the other side.
To the quiet Nurse’s Assistant who, after every visit, on her way out the door, brushed her hand lightly down my father’s side and said a soft prayer.
To Diane, the Hospice nurse, who carefully bathed and rubbed lotion all over my father’s brittle and discolored body.
To Norma, the head nurse at Liberty Commons, whom we could trust to honor my father’s last wishes in all things.
To my niece, Mary Clare, who flew down from Winchester to be at his side, and who read to him each day.
To my niece, Jenifer, who sat for hours with me and Dad in simple, warm silence.
To Jane, his primary caregiver for the last five years, who always had his back, insisted that he be treated with respect and dignity, and who held his hand and sang to him in his last moments.
To my brother, Scott, who willingly accepted the heavy duty and burden of daily care for my Dad after my mother passed away. Words can not describe how much he has done, how much he has sacrificed, how much pain he has endured to help my Dad through these last years of his journey.
There is nothing about the approach to death that is easy. It’s ugly and coarse and painful. There is precious little dignity to be had when the body fails.
But there can be kindness.
In the end, I think it may be the only thing that matters.
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. – Matthew 7:12