After being in the hospital for two weeks on a respirator, my dad acquired many clots due to the medications and lack of movement, and then he went into an alpha coma. This means that the part of his brain controlling the autonomic parts of his body (ie. heart beating, breathing) were no longer functioning and the machines were the only things keeping him alive. My dad had already signed a living will stating that he did not wish to be kept alive on life support. We gathered family and friends to pay their last respects, and then we had him extubated. My mom and brothers and I gathered around him to be with him as he quickly slipped away. I had been so used to watching the monitors tell his heart rate for the previous two weeks, and then I watched as it just got slower and slower until they shut them off. Words can’t really do justice to the feeling I had then, the same feeling I have right now as I write this. I know that there was peace knowing he was no longer suffering, knowing that he is in a better place. But that lose really carves a hole out of my heart, a very tender spot.
We had a Celebration of Life for my dad. I put together a slide show of his life, his youth, all the places my parents went and served together. I included photos of him with each of us and the grand-kids. He truly lived a beautiful life.
A Few Weeks Passed
A few weeks passed and I heard that my uncle Joe, my dad’s oldest brother, who was mobile but had been on oxygen for a while, was beginning to accept hospice care. I called him, and he was just as jovial as ever, making jokes and light of everything. My mom and I discussed when to go over and see him and my aunt Chris. But before we could head over there, she called us and told us that he had passed away. That tender little part of my heart, tore open just a bit further. Somehow it was even worse than my dad’s passing.
Our family gathered together again. Our shared pain brought us closer than we have ever been. I am so thankful for each and everyone of them. And we have stronger relationships growing out of this loss.
I don’t really know how to grieve. There are steps, its a process, yes, I’ve heard all of that. But feeling this deep biting pain, an influx of emotions, sometimes uncontrollable, and seeing this huge expanse before me that looks like there is no end to it all, is unlike anything else I’ve ever known. I have known many loses before, but nothing like this. And yet there is growth that seems to flow from all of it. I can’t help but be thankful. I am thankful to have had a wonderful father who was my cheerleader, and an uncle who could always make me laugh. I see the men my brothers and cousins have become, and I am so proud. This is proof of what excellent fathers these men were. Though I still cry often, and my heart is sometimes heavy, it feels like healthy sadness. When the tears finally stop, my heart feels full. I will see them both again someday.