Trip home to see my dying father

by Sean S
(Las Vegas )

My dad has been fighting lung cancer very bravely for over two years or so. A month ago I got a text from my sister saying he was going home with her after a few days in the hospital for infections. He was better and she was taking him home to rest up and get his health back up after a particularly rough winter. She wanted my help with creating meal plans and stuff and she also let me know he just got an iPhone so we could start face timing each other. She's 26 and spent the last two years doing so much to be there for him, he was very independent the whole battle. They are in Minnesota, I'm 29 and in Las Vegas.

The initial text was on Wednesday afternoon. I said I was at work and I'd get back to her. We didn't contact each other though. Thursday no word so I sent the usual how's dad doing text around 10:30pm. Got a response Friday morning 6:30, "dad in ICU last night, docs want to have a meeting with me, don't worry, let you know how it goes." He ended up with clots in his lungs and legs, and combinations of chemo, tumor location(s) meant there wasn't much they could do but let his condition try and improve and it that it was going to be a rough couple of days till they could decide how to treat. It took till about 6pm my time to get the full info before the fam started to leave hospital and stuff. He went to sleep, sis said he and fam were exhausted, but they told me to not worry too much but that it was probably time to start coming home more often. I wrapped up my 14 hour shift at 12:30am (I'm a chef on the strip) and went home for a crappy night of sleep.

Woke up to texts throwing technical info at me " docs can't get oxygen levels up" "call you in a few" "giving dad morphing and moving him to hospice". Dad had been doing so well that I didn't even know what hospice was. And his sister had been on hospice for months i found out and kept fighting back, so the sense of urgency was more of "pull though dad" as opposed to "this might be it". Well, after my mother hit me with the reality of what was goin on and me telling my job I was going home, I was at the airport at noon. I was on and off the phone with my dad and my sis, dad sounded rough but not terrible. Sis said he was cracking jokes. I told him I was coming home, so we'd see each other unexpectedly and he said that'd be nice.

Well, 30 minutes before my flight left, text fromm sis says you should call dad and tell him you love him. Now. So I did. Thought I was giving him a pep talk, told him to hang in there and that'd we'd be shooting the shit in a few short hours. Could barely understand him, but he told me he loved me for the first time in a few days. He always said it, but than he stopped. I knew it was because he wouldn't go without telling me he loved me, so I took it as reassurance that he was hanging on when he wouldn't say it. Well, this time he said, two or three times. He started coughing real bad. My sis took the phone and said she wasn't sure what was happening. I got fired up. "You tell those doctors to get their asses in there and do what we pay them to f***ing do. Tell them to do their jobs!" She took it well, just told me to get home (I had a three hour flight AND a four hour drive through a blizzard ahead of me at that point.

I called a friend. I had been sober for 75 days on a new year health kick and really wanted to maintain it, but at this point I was a sweaty anxiety ridden mess. My friend said Go get a beer! So I did, and I got a shot and a drink as soon as I got on the plane. I calmed down a great deal. The woman next to me asked what I was headed home for, I told her the something I told a few of my friends. "Dads sick so I'm going home to give him a pep talk, he's either going to get better, or we're in for a difficult year." The plan when I landed in MN was to take a shuttle a few hours north to one of my aunts house, where she would take me the rest of the way, an hour, home.

Well, road conditions detiriorated and I barely made it to my aunts. I had full contact with my fam most of the time, but they were short for some reason and just kept telling me to get as far as I could. So I finally get to my aunts, and rather than be dressed for the trip, she's in her pajamas and drives me to her house down the road. I mentioned briefly, "guess I'll see dad after a night of rest, no big deal." We pulled in to her driveway.

My sis calls, asks how I'm feeling, "fine, just tired, how's dad?"

"hang on, I'm putting mom on three way so we can talk" she says.

I couldn't stand up, so I kinda just buckled on to the floor and braced myself for the worst. I thought the worse would be the word coma, or something to that affect. Mom gets on the phone.

Sis says, "well dad hung on as long as he could, but his body just couldn't do it, he didn't make it."

Instant tears, "so that's it? He's not there? He's not coming back?"


He left after his coughing fit on the phone with me. That was it, the end. The docs DID do their jobs by keeping him comfortable and surrounded by family. My family had it much harder than I did in a way for being there for that. I know he spared me of seeing him like that, it was probably the last thing that he had control over in his final hours.

So that's how it happened. Over the course of a weekend he was gone, after making plans to spend said weekend with my sister. I can't believe it and I have so much emotion that I can't write about it all yet, but i wanted to get the initial story out. Wondering if anyone else has experienced anything similar and how they feel about it. As far as being long distance, and missing opportunity to be there.

We all grieve differently, perhaps we can help each other.

Comments for Trip home to see my dying father

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Apr 15, 2013
thank you
by: Sean

Thank you both for sharing, you are in my thoughts =)

Apr 13, 2013
Trip home to see my dying father
by: Doreen U.K.

Sean I am sorry for your loss of your Dad and for the difficult time you had before he died.
My husband died of lung cancer 11 months ago and so I know the journey and how difficult it was. Lung cancer is a killer and seldom does one recover from this type of cancer. It is a life sentence from diagnosis. I feel lost, lonely, and sad at the moment even after 11 months. We all have different experiences and journeys with our loved ones before they die but the pain of grief is the same but varying in degrees of intensity. WE have different bonding experiences but we all have the memories of our father that will remain with us forever.
You will get through your grief because that is the only way forward for all of us. But give yourself the time and space to grieve your loss however long it takes. It will get easier in time.

Apr 13, 2013
To Sean
by: Mona

My heart just pained me when I read your story. I have heard of not being there when someone you love takes their last breath. I know this is hard for you as well but do not beat yourself up over it. He probably would not want you to see him like that. I just lost my father last month and just starting to function a little bit but the pain is horrible.. My story is I slept on a chair in the room the only time I ever slept in the room in 27 months of tending to my father and between the hours of 3 and 7am he passed. I never heard one word. Not a cry or moan or anything. I will never forget that morning as long as I live. My dad had a smile on his face of total peace and I screamed out for my son..went outside and thanked the Lord for taking him so peacefully in his sleep - that is what he wanted...I know how much you hurt but you got to speak to your Dad right before he passed so thank God for that.. Some people never get a chance to tell their loved ones I love you before they go and I think that is worse to live with the guilt of that. You tried your hardest to get there in time and like they say Father Time beat you to it. Your Dad is at peace now no more pain and suffering. My father went through so much pain and suffering, chemo, blood transfusions and everything else..I still am having a hard time going in that room and he is not there to greet my mornings with the sun on his face.. I pray for you Sean and know I care and sending my thoughts to you. God Bless. Mona

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