It's a pain like no other...
(Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
On September 1st, my mother informed me that my father was diagnosed with colon cancer. We had anticpated this, due to the symptoms...but it was still very difficult to hear. I guess I started grieving at that point. I knew my parent's lives would never be the same. Chemo, being homebound, changing their routine was all something that was new for them. But they went at it as a team.
My father was breezing through Chemo with hardly any issues. His tests were positive and we just knew that he was going to beat this horrible disease. He even enjoyed the social time he had with the people he met, during his "treatments" and they were taking everything in stride. Then the dreaded thing happened...my father, somehow, got pneumonia. It was the one thing my mother was fighting harder than even the cancer. As an RN, she knew the risks involved with Chemo patients. This is why they didn't leave the house, unless it was necessary. She used lysol wipes, lysol spray, disinfected every surface...especially when they had visitors.
It didn't matter...he was sick. Very sick. He had difficulties breathing and had stopped eating. She took him to the emergency room, where they gave him antibiotics and sent him on his way. He was given another course of antibiotics and finally admitted to the hospital to get the fluid removed from his lungs. While in the hospital, we still had hope that he would regain his strength, start eating and get back on the treatments. This continued to be the goal...even after the doctor expressing the fluid punctured my dad's lung. He recovered and was sent home. I spoke to Mom shortly after his release and she sounded defeated. He had finally ate something, but it wouldn't stay down. After a particularly awful episode, she told me she thought "the end was near" and was in need of guidance from his doctor. Days after that she finally was able to get him an appt.
On Feb 11th, my Dad turned 75. He received a number of phone calls. I remember this conversation as if it happened yesterday. Because I play it in my head over and over again. He sounded just like my Dad. He sounded strong. He didn't need the oxygen that he received on the last hospital release. And he asked about how we were doing and how my "doggies" were, especially my oldest one. Again, the hope was renewed.
During all of this, I'm hundreds of miles away in Florida. They are in South Carolina. I work full-time, but from home. I had spoke with my boss and he had said that I could go anytime I wanted, and we would "work things out" to allow for me to continue with my job. I didn't go. I have a number of reasons why I didn't go...but none of those excuses seem valid now. Now that it's too late.
The dreaded call arrived the weekend of Feb 15th, just 24 hours after I had to let go of my 16 year old dog (my Dad's "little buddy"). Mom tells me that it would be a good idea to come to South Carolina. Dad is in the hospital and it doesn't look good. On Monday, Feb 18th, we planned to leave and make a two day trip. Mom called again and said we needed to be there sooner...things were that bad.
We arrived in Columbia and went straight to the hospital. Feb 18th was the last day my father spoke to me. I'll never forget it.."Hi Baby, you look good" with a wink and a smile. He didn't look like my dad. Down from 215 to 135. He was so fragile and so sick. We stayed with him every day. Mom didn't leave his side. His family and friends from Ohio paraded through to tell him bye. Their closest friends remained with us to the very end.
Mom and I held Daddy's hands as his breaths became further and further apart. Mom knew...she knew that Friday was going to be his last day. We sat that way for hours. I began talking to him and telling him it was okay to let go. That we had people that were going to take care of us. That Mom and my sister and I were going to be just fine. He can let go without worries. At 10:44 pm, February 22, 2013, my father took his last breath. A minute later, his heart stopped. He was gone. I still remember the fear in my mother's eyes and the anguish on her face. It was fleeting, but it was there.
My mother wiped her eyes and began asking what happens next. I couldn't let him go. I didn't want to let him go. I just held on..and cried. I'm still crying. And not sure when I will ever stop.
With broken hearts we traveled to Ohio for the funeral. We had it rather quickly...Mom wanted it that way. There was no need to wait for weeks. Who was going to be there, was there. It all remains a blur. None of us knew what to do...who is an expert on death?? The family came together and everyone was so wonderful to us. Supposedly the healing begins. I guess I just need to hang on for this ride of a lifetime. I can't get around it or hurry it up. I just need to feel it and let it ride it's course. All I know is that I miss him so much.