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

1 comment:

  1. Yes, you are.he is at peace and you miss him. I can tell you, that part never goes away. My Dad passed in 1978. I still miss him.