Thinking of what to write. Thinking of which route I want to take.. I feel I have put way too much thought into this when I just need to write and let it flow. It will take on the direction it needs to. It will eventually come together. It’s letting myself see words on a screen, seeing them flow into an organized thought. It is jumbled in my head, things that I can’t process enough to create into even an organized chaos.
My dads birthday was this past weekend. It has been 10 months since he has passed. It feels as if time has just flown by, so much has happened in this chaotic 10 months. I have said multiple times, just as I have heard from more than one person, you cannot put a time frame on grief. You also cannot expect to grieve the same way someone else does. There is no clear answer to grieving, no clear answer on what it is supposed to look like, and feel like and how long you are supposed to grieve. Part of me believes that you will grieve the rest of your life. It will just change its form as time goes on. And that is ok.
My mom still has not cleaned out and changed dads room. It has not been touched since he passed. The only change is that hospice came and took the hospital bed out and now there is a peace lily where the bed once was. I still have a hard time looking into that room. I expect to see him sleeping or trying to peek around the corner to see who is walking by. In my head I still see his wide eyes and he tries to listen to whatever nonsense I have to say as he lays in the bed, TV blasting some old show or game show, and I stand at the foot of the bed, touching his leg frail legs.
Mom usually set in the recliner that we placed in the back room, so she could relax and spend time with dad. She didn’t really like being stuck in the back room, but dad refused to get out of bed and go to the living room. He also refused having his bed moved to the living room, where mom could keep an eye on him as she moved about her day in the house. I can completely understand her getting stir crazy at times. As dad declined, he started sleeping more. A lot more. The last year he was alive, he declined quickly. His kidneys continued to fail, his sugar was high, then low, then high again, his appetite decreased every day seemed like, and he started sleeping, a lot. It got to the point where he would sleep all day long unless mom woke him up to try to make him eat so he could take his insulin. Even then, most of the time he refused. He would attempt to eat one or two bites of something, usually cereal or a piece of toast, then lay his bed back down and go back to sleep. He would literally sleep all day and night. The doctors kept telling mom to just let him sleep, let him rest. My mom refused to give up.
She, just like everyone of us, was not ready to admit what was actually happening. There were a few things happening actually. His body was giving up the battle, defeated by an unfair sickness, and his own will to live was diminishing. Depression is a nasty and strong state. It can do crazy things to your body, and in this example, it was speeding up the process of death. To see your dad lay in a hospital bed for three years, defeated by depression, is one of the hardest things to witness, next to actually seeing him pass. I feel with one hundred percent certainty that if he had a will to live, he would still be alive now. It just became so much easier for him to give in than to fight. My mom used to tell me how selfish it was to not want to fight for your family, but I think he had fought his whole life and he was tired. He was defeated.
I never knew how I would react when the time actually came that he would pass. I knew our time was limited and I tried to spend every bit of time I could with him. The only time I saw his whole face light up like the old dad we knew, was when me and all my brothers, just the four of us and dad were all gathered in his room, laughing, being loud and goofing off like we do. You could tell that we were his life. He never had to say a word and you just knew that he was so proud of us. I will always cherish those moments. I remember getting the phone call from the CNA who took exceptional care of him. It was a voice mail, left from my moms phone. I decided to check it, as I was actually heading that way to surprise her and dad for the weekend. I will never forget the feeling of complete panic. I was driving, and then started to hyperventilate. I felt as if I couldn’t catch my breath. She was very matter of fact with me, and honestly, I am glad she didn’t sugar coat anything. They were transporting him to solace, which if you know anything about hospice care, that is basically the end stage of care. I pull over at a gas station to compose myself enough to call work and let them know I was not sure when I would be back, that my dad was probably going to pass soon.
When I arrived at solace, I remember things being a little chaotic. There was a lot of questions, a lot of uncertainty, a lot of talk. We felt it could be a few things that is causing him to be so sick. He was vomiting what looked to be bile, and he was in pain. One theory was that he had bowel obstruction. This is the theory my mom kept pushing. It had to be the only explanation. You are never ready to actually hear the doctor tell you that this is probably his final days.
He, the hospice doctor, gathered us all, my brothers, my sister in laws, my mom, into a room with a social worker as well. He explained that he would take our theory of bowel obstruction into consideration, but we need to really think and understand what is more serious. That we need to prepare ourselves for his death. That this is more than likely the result of his kidney failure, and everything starting to shut down. We went over options to make him comfortable, and options to examine his bowels. Those results came back, and nowhere on the ultrasound showed any type of blockage or obstruction…
The last time I saw my dad alive, and held his hand, was the night he passed. I think he knew he was going to pass, and he was ready. I remember looking in his wide eyes, and him telling me I could leave, that I didn’t have to stay. He wanted to know when I would be back and that he loved me. I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I will always, always, regret leaving that night. It was nice that mom and dad had their final moment together, alone, and holding each others hand, but I was not ready or prepared to never see my dad again.
I remember the snow storm where I lived, the roads were horrible. I felt as if time was slowing down and all I wanted to do was to get back to solace as quickly as possible. I couldn’t get there quick enough. As I go running thru the doors, my aunt and uncle were standing outside my dads room and hugged me, telling me they would always be here for whatever we needed. I go running into my dads room, and I will never forget what I saw.
He was laying in his bed, still, and peaceful. My brothers and all of my sister in laws were sitting around him in a half circle.. There was no words being said, just sniffles and heads down. They had placed a red rose in his hands, it was a flawless, beautiful red rose. My mom was touching him and crying. She pulled up a chair next to her and told me to talk to him. He had already passed, but she said to make sure I said whatever I needed and wanted to. Our time was limited because they had to come take dad away. I couldn’t do anything but cry. I remember touching his chest, convinced that I could see him still breathing. I layed my head in my moms lap and cried for what seems like an eternity. It was time to take him, and we stepped out of the room into the grand room with a beautiful HUGE Christmas tree, and large stone fireplace. I turned my back to his room because I couldn’t stand the thoughts of seeing him taken out. My oldest brother had not cried yet. His wife had also not been able to get there yet. She came as they were taking him out, I will never forget, as soon as my brother saw his wife, he cried harder than I have ever seen him cry. He felt he had to be strong for all of us because he is the oldest, but once his comfort was there, he lost it.
The days after that seemed to fly by. His funeral and viewing came and gone, and eventually everyone around us carried on with their normal lives. Yet here we are, left to figure out what our “normal” was now. We had spend the last three years caring full time for my dad, and now, we didn’t know what we were supposed to do or what we were supposed to feel. This is where “how do we grieve” comes in..
I realize I took you through a long journey just to get to this point. There is no correct or wrong way to grieve and move on, if you even move on. I find that talking about it helps, just to keep the memories alive. Even if they are hard or sad to think about. It is a good thing to feel every emotion. The happy, the sad, mad, regrets, and even the numbness. It is your journey, your process. Unique to who you are and how you chose to deal with life. Never let someone tell you that you are overreacting or undervalue your feelings, either. Our feelings are real, and they are raw. Stay where you are appreciated, leave where you are not. Make sure you surround yourself with a positive support system of family and friends. Take no BS from anyone. Take life one day at a time, and appreciate every feeling, every thought, and every one who makes your life what it is. Journal, talk, cry and laugh. There is no shame in mental health, there is no shame in getting help, and absolutely no shame in talking to professionals.