It’s been a whirlwind since getting the text that dad was back in the hospital… probably pneumonia. I made a visit that evening to visit him with my brother. This felt familiar. At this point in his 90 year old life Dad had made many of these visits. He was in good spirits for the most part and talked of getting out of there the next day.
The following night I went back to see Dad and we were told that he was more or less given the directive to go home and call hospice. He would continue to get aspiration pneumonia and there was nothing they could do. Wow…
Dad was angry. He hadn’t really given the end of his life much thought, after all the Zags were gearing up to begin a new season. He told us it was overwhelming news. Of course…
Three days later they moved him to a care center to rehab and regain strength to be able to go home. After a visit with four of my siblings a few days later, I knew deep in my heart that he was not going home.
Five days later my dad made a difficult and final decision. He chose to begin End of Life Care… to begin dying. He would no longer eat or take his medications. Any form of swallowing was more and more difficult and he was choking to death. That was Monday.
I spent the afternoon with him on Tuesday. He was alert and in fairly good spirits. He struggled to talk so conversation was minimal. We held hands and I spent a great deal of time looking at his blue eyes. His blue eyes that were beginning to lose their life. His blue eyes that he passed on to me. His hands were soft and his skin transparent.
Thursday I went to spend the afternoon with him. One of my sisters had come from Seattle to say goodbye. They had some sweet words and I love you’s. I was also able to look Dad in his blue eyes, holding his hand and tell him that I loved him… very much. He looked back at me and told me he loved me deeply… deeply. Those were are last words spoken to each other directly.
An hour and a half after arriving he took out his iPhone and played Mahjong one last time. Shortly after that he began to slip away. Trying to make him as comfortable as possible we put him in his favorite Zag sweatshirt. We left the room for a time and when we came back everything had changed. No more alertness or ability to have conversations. He was now actively dying. His breathing changed. It was just a matter of making him comfortable and waiting… waiting. Deep in his soul he was probably relieved. Several days before he told my sister it was taking a long time. He passed peacefully 14 hours or so later holding the hand of his wife.
What must go through your mind as you lay dying… knowing you are dying. I learned that once they begin this process, it is more of a spiritual battle than physical. His body no longer needed anything, but his soul had to make the transition. We all prayed that he had made his peace with Jesus. He as expressed earlier in this journey that he had made a great many mistakes in his life and was not sure what was next for him. My dear brother shared with him from the gospel of John.
“To all who receive him, to those who believe in his name, he has given them the right to be called children of God.” John 1:12
It is that simple. We’ve all made mistakes… he was not alone. For my dad it came down to one truth… and only God knows what happened in his heart.
I believe God gave my dad a gift. The gift to time to say goodbye and try to mend some fences. It’s been a long and tumultuous battle in our family. Great heartache and sadness, along with wonderful times and sweet memories. Each of us that he fathered has our own story to tell from our time on this earth with him. Some of us a little more difficult than others.
So the whirlwind end to my dad’s life has finished. Yesterday we buried him in a beautiful spot above the river. Now we each begin to untangle the memories and bring closure to another relationship… our last parental relationship. We lost our mom suddenly nearly 7 years ago.
May the God of hope bring each of us to a place of ultimate forgiveness and peace with the man that gave us life. And may we live our lives out with strength and courage to remember what was good and right, and let go of what needs to be forgotten. We are his legacy… and we need to live it out with all that our Father in heaven has given us.