Six a.m. and All is Quiet

by Debra

Six a.m. and All is Quiet

It's quiet in my mother's house at 6 a.m.
There is frost on the cars outside, the lawn, the roses
The only sound breaking the silence
Is the rhythmic pulsing of the oxygen pump
He lies still
My father
Contributing his own melody
Of slow, shallow breaths and soft throaty gurgles
I watch him take the air in
His chest rising as his flat stomach pulls in
And then
His chest falling as his stomach lifts ever so slightly
I continue to watch over him
His mouth open, lips still soft yet dry
His eyes closed, lashes resting against his drawn face
He lies still
If he is in pain, he certainly doesn't show it
His body is warm and soft too
He has been sleeping for days now
There is no more restlessness
No dancing feet or mock gestures with his arms and hands
He does not groan, perhaps an occasional sigh or extended breath
But I'm not sure
My mother sleeps
She is exhausted
She barely left his side yesterday
How difficult this must be for her
Watching her husband, quietly pass away
He lies still
It is nearing 7o'clock
Time again for his morphine
Time again for his Ativan
Time again for his atropine
Zero point 7 in the syringe, dribbling over the white tablet in the medicine cup
Two drops and I'm vacantly watching as the little white pill bubbles up
And dissolves away into the red tinted liquid
A quick stir and then slowly draw it into the syringe
Record it on our spiral notebook filled with information for the hospice nurse,
For ourselves
We are tired
One day bleeds into the next
He lies still
I quietly whisper into his ear, "Dad, this is your daughter. I'm going to give you some
medicine to keep you comfortable."
No response
I slip the syringe into the side of his mouth, slowly filling the small cavity with the drug
I pull it out, checking to make sure it does not run down the side of his stubbled jawline
I give him a kiss on his forehead, "I love you, dad."
I return to the kitchen, rinsing out the syringe and medicine cup
Returning the medical supplies to their proper place until the next hour
I return to the chair that sits next to his hospital bed
My book is there, the remote for the television
My cup of lukewarm coffee
Sometimes it is my IPad for countless hours of solitaire or web browsing
Sometimes it is a magazine with recipes for the holidays
Sometimes it is cocoa, or chai tea, or nothing at all
He lies still
I look over at him, lying there
"Waiting on that lone runway, waiting for his clearance to take flight."
Too many delays, he is ready
The sun is up now
It will be another crisp, beautiful autumn day
It is my favorite season
Was it his?
Funny, I never asked
And now I am anxious because suddenly it is important for me to know
I take a deep breath
Fighting back the tears that seem to flow so easily now
He lies still
And as I somberly consider the last four months
And acknowledge the fact that our family is nearing the end of this trial
A question runs through my thoughts
What is love?
Several minutes later,
The answer becomes apparent
Love is going beyond what you ever thought yourself capable
It is the recognition of mortality and the fragility of the human body
It is embracing the opportunity to care for a person
Considering it an honor and privilege to help bathe, feed, or sit with
A man who has always been there for you
It is setting yourself aside wholly,
Pleading to trade places,
Praying his pain is minimal.
It is a state of agony so intense,
so deep rooted,
you wonder if you can ever experience joy again
It is groping at a faith in God so desperately,
You physically reach your arms out to Him
And weep into His lap
It is a reconnection, a strengthening of bonds to family members
Granddaughters opening their hearts,
Grandsons choking back tears,
Children exchanging roles with their parents
Brushing aside everything, your home, your job, your life
In exchange for the chance he will open his eyes one more time,
Smile up at you and whisper, "I love you."
But knowing deep in your heart he won't
I lean over him and smooth my thumbs over his eyebrows
I run my fingers through his soft gray hair
I study his features
The hollowness in his cheeks
His gaping mouth,
The small broken blood vessels on his rosy red nose
And I realize, he has moved on
Or at least appears to have done so
His body is simply the vessel that held the spirit of a beautiful man
For now,
His body holds on
For now,
He lies still
And I wait,
Watching over him,
Until the physical part of him lets go
And is still

Debra Freeman
November 13, 2012

Note: My father let go of his physical body on November 13th. All along, I wanted to express how I was feeling about my father’s battle with cancer, yet until that early morning, no words came to me. I even prayed to God to let the words come out. That early morning, at my father’s bedside, my fingers began flying over the keyboard. Later that evening, my father took his last breaths, with me, my brother and sister, and mom at his side.

Comments for Six a.m. and All is Quiet

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May 22, 2014
Dear Debra
by: Maryann

Dear Debra,

Your story touched me like no other on this site. I have lost two husbands to suicide but my biggest fear at the moment is losing my parents whom I live with and are both in their 80's and legally blind. I felt the love you have for your dad. I love my parents so much. They've been there for me through both my husbands suicides. My last husband died just 2 1/2 months ago. I search this site every day for peace. I was separated from both of my husbands with they died but my parents have always been there for me. I'm terrified at the thought of losing either of them. Thank you for sharing your love! God bless you!

Jul 25, 2013
Thank you
by: Anonymous

What a beautiful tribute to your father. My sweet father passed away in January, from Cardiac Arrest. There was no chance for me to say goodbye to him-he died right away. My grief is unbearable at times, and I will never be the same. Thank you for putting your words out there.....I wish you comfort and peace.

Jun 06, 2013
Thank You
by: Debra

Thank you for your kind words of encouragement. Writing has become my therapy. It allows me to hold on to memories that have become invaluable to me now. Most are bittersweet, but they allow me to reconnect with my dad as well as work through the incredible sense of loss that if not held in check, can cripple me. My heart goes out to all of you. Grief has no timetable and it has become apparent that this is going to be a long and painful process. I pray you let go of any guilt you may be harboring regarding the loss of your dear one(s). It serves no purpose other than to cause you more needless suffering. A friend of mine from work who lost her mother several years ago gave me a book called, 1000 Gifts. I have begun making a list of life's little joys. #1 was the sound of Hawaiian wind chimes on a warm summer breeze. #2 The aroma of a freshly brewed cup of Italian roast coffee. Making this list forces me to look for the small things that bring me pleasure. It reminds me that joy still exists, even in the depths of despair. You are in my thoughts. Contact me whenever you need a friend to share your pain.

Jun 05, 2013
so beautiful
by: Anonymous

This was so beautiful. It showed how much you truly loved and cherished your father. I did the same thing for my mother who died 13 days after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I never left her side 24/7. My mother such a gentle, loving, hard working woman to be in that condition in that amount of pain. I prayed that God would give it to me and spare her that pain. My prayers went unheard.......Now two years later I feel like a 47 year old orphan unmarried no children being an only child my parents dedicated ther live for me. Now they are both gone too early both of cancer. What did I do so bad to be in this position. I watched my father die first and then 10 years later out of know where my precious mother. Her greatest fear was leaving me alone....who would have thought it would happen so quick so unexpected she was only 73 when she died my father had just turned 71 when he died. I fake happiness because people just dont understand this horrific grief. I visit the cemetery daily plant flowers tend ther grave.....People say how are you and I lie so well I say great. They don't want to hear my sad story and i don't want to hear how and why I need to move I lie makes me less upset than hearing comments that only make it worse. The last few days I have really really been thinking that in the last two years I have figured out and learned more about my mother than the 45 years she was my mother. If only I could turn back the clock. Why was I not more understanding of her devasting grief after my father many things I would have should have done differently if only I had this great insight on who she really was when she was alive. Why all the ahha moments now.....Is this another one of my punishments to add to my never ending list of things that I feel guilty about. I tried to be a good son I thought I was always doing the right things but I would have done so many things so differntly had I only figured her out while she was here. |Now it is too late because she is gone. I wanted to change her to get her out of her deep mourning...her many phobias, her constant fear of my safety even as an adult over the age of 40....Now I see how I hate it that people want me to change. Not understanding that the old me is buried and gone and this is the new me, not the carefree, sense of humour....I feel frozen no emotions, stuck....Being an only child I had to make all the medical decisions for both my parents...again I have so much guilt....maybe I SHOULD HAVE MADE DIFFERENT DEcisions for them. Selling our home the guilt i have about that. I should could no longer live ther everywhere i looked i saw them. The home my father built and the home my mother loved so much and never wanted to sell. But i DID IT. I just could not live ther it was too big for one person so many memories that were killing me....more guilt....sorry for venting

Jun 05, 2013
Six a.m. and All is Quiet
by: Doreen U.K.

Debra THANK YOU! for your very beautifully written account of your father's journey with cancer. I am sorry for your loss of your father to cancer.
This echo's my story of my horrendous journey of cancer when my beloved husband received that worst news ever on March 28th 2009. You have MESOTHELIOMA ( a rare and serious form of lung cancer caused by working with ASBESTOS incurable, inoperable, and aggressive. I was his caregiver for 3yrs.39days when he died on May 5th 2012. 13 months ago.
I know how bad the cancer journey is and to watch your loved one stop eating, and when he eats he can't taste his food so he gives up. Then his body becomes emaciated and you reach out to touch him and there is no flesh only bone. My heart bled and I cried often. It hurt so much to watch someone die who wanted to live. He couldn't fight anymore because he had already received the verdict. "you are going to die." He went into the hospice and all they talked of was death and dying and my beloved didn't know why. he was in denial about death. He believed in a miracle just like me. I had to watch him struggle with cancer pain and scream down the phone for someone to come and give him an injection for the pain and no one came for 3hrs. Times he felt abandoned and left to die. He felt the doctors didn't care. The doctors getting excited about the Chemo and Radiotherapy whilst my beloved struggled for breath and life. When nothing more could be done the Doctors shook his hand and said there is nothing more we can do and I had to look into the face of my beloved. A look that will haunt me forever. Such a cruel disease. A family disease because we are all fighting it. I watched him hoping he would wake up by some miracle and instead saw him draw his last breath. I felt crushed by his death and now crushed by life going on without him.
I am sorry for your loss and I understand your journey. I hope life treats you well and You are comforted in your grief.

Jun 05, 2013
by: Wendy Evans

I a moved beyond measure by your words. So descriptive. Painful yet comforting. I had a vision of your Father and you as I read your clear description of your life at that moment.

Thank you for sharing. I have not lost a loved one to a long illness. My Father died in a plane crash in 1973 and my Son from a faulty medical device at age 21 in 2009. My farewells have been after the fact and shocking. I have often wondered what it would be like in a situation like yours. I have a much better idea now.

I wish you and your family well and hope you continue to write for yourself and the rest of us touched by grief.

Jun 05, 2013
Your father...
by: Debi

Debra -

What a beautiful, heartfelt piece to write about your father. He certainly felt the love of you and your family surrounding him.

I could so relate when reading it - watched my mom wither away from much I wanted to say. I was also pregnant with my daughter at the time, feeling the sadness and guilt knowing that my mom would not be around to see her born.

Peace to you and your family.


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