Thursday, June 16, 2011

P is for Peaceful Passing

The clock just hit 10:30 p.m. It has now officially been two weeks since my father passed away. It still seems surreal to utter those words, even though they also seem so commonplace to say. I feel like calling Dad right now to talk to him about it, but of course I cannot.

I have been writing this "P" post (for the original April challenge) for the past two weeks, but hadn't yet felt ready to write it. Tonight, I guess I am.

My father had a very peaceful passing when it was time for him to go. He had been unconscious for the majority of the seven weeks that he had been in the hospital. On Memorial Day, I got a call saying that his eyes were actually open. We ran to the hospital, thinking this was possibly the turn-around for which we had been hoping. It was beautiful to look into those gray/blue eyes again. I could tell that he was trying to communicate with us, because as we talked to him his lips were moving. He was calmer than he had been the entire weekend that I had been home.

With smiles on our faces, we left for them to put in a new PIC line, and had lunch. Our meeting with the team was scheduled for after lunch. We walked into the meeting room with high expectations, only to hear that kidney function was at 50% and quickly failing. A living will made our decision easy. It was time to let go.

We disconnected fluids and feeding on Memorial Day. We scheduled Hospice for Thursday, as that was when his brother was finally going to be able to come to town. The nurses were kind and continued some fluids during the administration of medication, to slightly prolong his life in order to see his big brother one last time.

Dad stayed awake the remainder of the week. He seemed to be drinking in his family. He struggled to stay awake and often cried when the last one (usually me) left. For the first time that I could remember, my father repeatedly mouthed the words "I love you." We are a family that consistently demonstrates such sentiments, without having to utter the words. I said it repeatedly.

Thursday, June 2nd, we had Dad moved to Hospice. On my way to Perrysburg, I called my teaching assistant on the phone, as it was the last day of school. She put me on speakerphone so that I could say goodbye to my kids. I also asked them to send myu father happy thoughts. My gut was telling me that Dad was going that day and I wanted to send him off the right way. (When I returned to work a couple of weeks later, I was given pictures from the kids. One child made one that said, "I love you, Mr. Coventry.")

Once Dad was settled, we were allowed to go in to see him. My sister went over to him first. "Hi, Daddy." He gave her the biggest smile. I started to bawl. It was beautiful. I haven't seen him smile in months.

My aunts joined us and then all three of them left. They had to pick up my uncle from the airport and finish up some other legal obligations. I vowed to my father that I would not leave his side. I knew he was worried about us and a little scared about leaving (I refer to the tears all week). I told him that he had seen me into this world, and I would see him out of it.

A family friend came to visit. When I went to sit with her to talk, Dad decided to go to sleep and took a nap. He later awoke when another family friend from Florida called to wish him well via speakerphone. I only left the room to use the restroom.

Finally, the rest of the family arrived. They took their turns talking to him and I ran to the cafeteria for some dinner. We had a blast sharing memories of Dad throughout the years and had numerous good laughs. I even captured a beautiful picture of my sister and Dad smiling at each other as she bid him farewell.

I played music from the mp3 player on my phone as we continued to share stories. I kept nervously checking his extremeties and eyeballing the nurse as she came in. A few years ago, as my great uncle lay dying in Hospice, a friend who had once worked in Hospice told me all about the steps toward dying. My family wanted to go get dinner around 9:30. The nurse said it should be okay as Dad was still at 14 resps a minute. I knew he was going to go that night and I told them to come back if/when they needed to.

After they left, I told Dad I would let him rest, as he was starting to go to sleep again. I changed into my pajamas and found him wide awake again. I then said that I was going to play a song for him, to express how I felt. I chose a song by Eddie Vedder, called "Goodbye." It had been released a couple of years ago on the soundtrack for A Brokedown Melody, but the lyrics hadn't struck me so strongly before. Earlier in the week, Eddie Vedder had released his new CD and this song was track 5, which made me have to pull off the road after I purchased and listened to the CD on my way up to visit Dad. Click here to watch a video that contains the lyrics to this song.

I am a huge Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam fan, and have been for about 20 years now. So it was appropriate that I played this for my father as he was ready to leave. I also promised him that I was being taken care of, as was my sister. I also reassured him that we had Mom well taken care of in her new facility. I told him that it was time for him to do what he needed to do.

Around 10 the nurse came in again. Vital signs, etc., still indicated he would probably go over the night, but there didn't seem to be an immediate need to call in family to send him off. I changed into my pajamas and was settling into a chair with my laptop. The nurse came in to check on him and thought it was getting close, but possibly not close enough to call the family back. We started joking around about my Dad and his sense of humor while they set up my cot. Dad coughed up a goober and I chuckled. The nurse went over to wipe it off his face and touched his chest. "Andrea."

I grabbed my phone. "I am ready; phone is in my hand."

She got the stethoscope. She had to listen for one full minute. The other nurse held me up by my arm. After that minute she nodded. I said, "Going or gone?" She said, "Gone."

I felt my knees buckle, but more from a giant weight being lifted off of me from relief that I no longer had to worry. I called my family, who was on their way back from dinner. They came in crying, and I tried to reassure them that he had gone peacefully while none of us was paying attention. In fact, we were laughing and joking. It's the way he would have wanted to go. He needed some space and some laughter. And we were able to give it to him.

Two weeks later I can still feel the pain of him leaving. But somehow it is a little easier. I think that I had the advantage of starting to grieve a little earlier, as I knew back in April that he wasn't going to make it. I kept hoping for the best, but was being realistic. I have this damn intuition that often proves correct.

I miss my father with every fiber of my being. I am crying as I write this post tonight. But I also know that I carry his legacy with me. When I returned to NY from taking care of things, I had the best display of roses, ever. The garden that he helped me put in at the side of my house was more lush than in any other year. Granted. there had been a lot of rain and some intense temperatures in my absence, but I can't help but believe that he had a hand in it.

On behalf of my family, I thank everyone for their outpouring of support. We are all going to be fine. I can say that I am doing okay. Life still goes on. I will always celebrate the life of Richard S. Coventry.

I am going to be a mess at this concert next weekend....:-D

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Lost and Found in Life

This past year has been a year of major loss. I lost my grandmother in September. I lost my mother to Alzheimer's and we had to place her in a home in February. I lost my father last week. I may have lost a few friends. I was told I may have lost my ability to have children. I have lost some belongings. I have lost a couple of writing gigs. I lost a relationship. I have lost many parts of myself.

But at the same time I have found myself again. I know who I am and how I feel. I found my Montessori roots and have thrown myself into the old school philosophy. I found my grandmother again when I took her broken wedding ring and started to wear it and when she came to me in my dreams. I even found my grandfather and the man I call my step-grandfather, as she brought them to me in my dreams. I found a new level of intimacy with my father as I sat with him over seven weeks, watching him die. I have found new writing gigs and a new ability deep within to communicate with and touch others. I have found a way to redefine that relationship, that actually requires no definition, yet provides me with the love and care that I need.

My father's illness, and subsequent death, has helped me find strength in myself, in God, in the Universe, and in friends and family. I have spent 2 1/2 weeks with my aunt, getting to know her in a way that I never have before. A large share of those two weeks were also spent with other aunts and my uncle. I rekindled a relationship with the other side of the family. I have found who my true friends are and how to ask for help. My writing adventures have led me to new writing groups and new friends whom I may never meet in person, but who have walked along with me over these journeys.

I know that my new journey has just begun, and I will have to continue to find new ways to cope with my loss. Thank you for taking this journey with me.

Friday, June 10, 2011

BFF - A New Blogging Group

Ahhhhh....I love to write and I love inspiration. I just came across a new blogging group tonight called BFF - Blogging for Fun. Stay tuned for more possible posts based on their topics each week, as well. :-D

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

O is for Options

When a loved one is ill you are faced with numerous options. One set of options is in regards to the patient's care. Some people are fortunate enough to have filled out and discussed living wills. Others are forced to try to guess what the person would want.

Even within those living will options there are numerous options. With my father's health, we were faced with a bunch of those unpleasant options yesterday. Basically our options entailed how are we going to let our father die. None of them are the option we want. We want our father to live. We want him to live and be with us. We want to talk to him and touch him and love him in person. But those are no longer options for us.

We were fortunate that our parents at least had created a living will, which has been truly beneficial as we make all of our decisions. We can do what Dad would want. We can honor his wishes and his legacy, even though it hurts us. When he finally passes within the next several days, we can be at peace knowing that we did the right thing.

Other options include how we react to the situation. Everyone reacts differently, and I will only focus on myself right now. People have asked me how I can be so strong through all of these ups and downs. I keep replying that I don't have a choice. But my very wise aunt pointed out that I do have a choice. I could have chosen to abandon my family and pretended that nothing was wrong. I could have avoided spending time with my father in these last several weeks and simply remembered him the way he was before this traumatic event.

To me, though, there have been no other options than to spend as much time with him as I can. I did miss three weeks while I wrapped up some things at school, but they are a blur. Otherwise, I have gone up to spend time with my father for a couple of hours every day. I have had the chance to say "I love you," and for him to mouth it back. He has also shown it to me in many other ways, and I will cherish every single second that I have left with him. He is the most important person in my life.

My other option has been to be strong. Granted, these last few days as the end has become obvious, I have been melting into a snotty pool of tears much more frequently. But I still choose to keep on keeping on, putting one foot in front of the other. I will take each moment as it comes. I choose to not have any regrets (and truly do not feel any at this time, when people often do). And life will go on.

As my cousin said to me earlier tonight, "Life sucks at times, but you have to just plow through it."