Father’s Day and Death

June 16, 2013

I started writing this post a year ago. WordPress tells me I last updated it in December. I may actually finish editing it and publish it this year. And I’ve scheduled it to post while I’m off doing something that will hopefully make me forget all about it.
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Jesus. I just wrote the title and realized it’s a double entendre. I was intending to write about Pops’ death one two years ago. But… I suppose it applies to Right Guy and our losses as well. Fuck. That’s another post. Or not. Since he doesn’t talk.

Anyway… here’s the disclaimer. Death is not pretty and neither is this post. Seriously, stop reading now if you think you might not want to hear about what it’s like to die. In this case, of lung cancer. But I think the end process is similar regardless.
Not every death is like this one. I’m sure there are people who go peacefully in their sleep – really and truly. Someone more flowery than me might have described Pops’ death as just that – if they hadn’t been there in the hours just before, they might have said he died peacefully in his sleep. If you had found him in the morning that’s what it would have looked like. But he didn’t.

At least, not from MY perspective. Right Guy says different. I suppose he’s seen more horrible deaths. In the grand scheme of things, perhaps he’s right. But I have no basis for comparison. To me, my father’s death was traumatic.

I watched him struggle to breathe for hours. It was painful to watch. I kept giving him more morphine with the hope of him not knowing he was struggling to breathe.

I was with him all night. I saw the labored breathing. I kept him as doped as possible. At the time I wasn’t even completely sure I wasn’t overdosing him. I was trusting Right Guy’s medical advice – not knowing whether he was abetting euthanasia (he wasn’t). I just saw how clearly difficult it was for my father to breathe and I desperately wanted to make it easier on him – in any way I could (can you imagine?). If euthanasia had been explicitly mentioned at the time I likely would not have said no, although, I couldn’t have done it myself.

I can only hope now, as I did then, that he was too doped to know what was going on. That he was, in effect, sort of asleep and not aware in any way. Unfortunately, I won’t ever feel sure of that. He struggled so much to breathe, I find it difficult to believe that he wasn’t aware of it on some level. But I hope. In the same way I #hope that I can become pregnant with one tube and old eggs I will one day have a child.

He died in the wee hours on a Saturday morning. The day before Father’s Day. Friday afternoon the Hospice nurse had said she thought he would make it through the weekend. Which was kind of disheartening actually. It was clear to me that he was suffering quite a bit at that point. For it to go on for the whole weekend seemed cruel. But death is often like that.

But it didn’t happen that way. He tanked. FAST. More or less. He was gone just about 12 hours after the Hospice nurse left. It didn’t seem so fast at the time. I had given the newly hired nurse the night off and taken the overnight shift myself. And Right Guy happened to have that night off and came to help.

Neither of us had any clue Friday evening that we would be awake all night. Or that 12 hours could feel like an eternity.

In the end, I did what he asked. What he had asked me to do eight months before. He had asked me to be there with him at the end. He was afraid of dying alone (I think). I don’t think he knew what a burden that might be for me. He just wanted someone there with him when he went. And I understand that. And I wanted to be there for him. But, just so you know, this is a MUCH more difficult task than it sounds like. It’s not only hard at that moment but it’s something you carry with you… forever.

Last year I relived that night. Apparently the date of his death matters less to me than the way it played out. I was up all night that Friday night with him. And last year, on that Friday night, I was trapped in a hell of living it all over again. SO many things are blurry in my memory after his death. But that night… I remember it vividly with remarkable detail. I’m writing this before Friday night. I can only hope that this year it will not be as bad.

There’s a lot more to this story. Maybe, one day, I’ll get it all out. But for now this is it. His last day. The day before Father’s Day. Forever imprinted on my brain.

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2 Responses to “Father’s Day and Death”

  1. stupidstork Says:

    My sister. Everytime I read you it’s cray-cray how much we have in common. (And are you the one with the psychotic love of Muppets? There are people I know who all me ‘muppet’ that’s how coo-coo I am. My friend scored the last muppet movie and I explained to him that no matter what he goes on to do now, that’s the peak in his career for me).

    ANYWAY. I know exxxactly what you’re talking about. My Dad died of cancer and I was in the room with him, too. It’s close to impossible to forget the last few minutes – it’s been ten years, and even though my memory is for shit I still remember that vividly.

    A giant, internet hug to you today.

  2. Missy Says:

    I also have this tee shirt… But it wasn’t cancer, but a cardiac decline ending in a massive heart attack. Going to a specialist that said we could do nothing but a heart transplant, which wasn’t really an option with comorbidities. It’s been 15 years but its still very distinct memory wise. A nasty doctor coming in the room when we asked for more morphine, asking if we realized that giving him more right might kill him… When we already knew it was futile and we wanted him comfortable. Having to have the docs call the Red Cross so my brother could get released from the Army in time to get home to see him. The all night vigil culminating with us at the bedside telling him it was ok to go…. Miss him every day. It’s never easy. It’s late but a big sympathetic Internet hug to you as well.


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