Tuesday, February 28, 2012

They Live On: The Ministry of Presence

I had never heard of this concept in Part Four of They Live On: The Ministry of Presence. It is when you are with someone at the end of their lives. I have already talked many times about how beautiful it was to be there with my father as he took that last breath on this earth. He waited until I was distracted talking to the nurse. But I was the one who had that privilege. Unless something drastic happens with my mom, though, I will probably miss hers. And I do feel bad about that at times. I just don't know how to fix that right now.

This part of the book deals with Patricia having to move her mother to Hospice, as she has been given a prognosis of less than six months to live. It is time to start letting go. I hated going through that process. We picked the most beautiful of the facilities available to us. It is the same one that my great uncle was in back in 2007. That was another painful spring break. I had come home for Easter. He moved into Hospice the very next day and passed away the following Sunday. I was there every day, supporting his family. That experience helped me know what to expect with my father.

Dad was moved to Hospice around 11 am on June 2nd. He passed away at 10:30 that night. We didn't have time to enjoy the facility. Friends and family didn't have a chance to come visit us. Dad's pastor was planning on coming down the following morning. I felt like the only person who knew he wouldn't make it through the night. I remember calling a family friend and putting him on speakerphone so that he could talk to Dad for a while. I remember telling my aunts, uncle and sister that Dad was going to go that evening, just before they left to go have dinner. As they were paying for their meal, he slipped away.

Other brief parts of this section resonated with me. Patricia talks about hating her phone, though she used to like talking on it. I still don't like to talk on the phone. I have hated the phone ringing ever since my phone went off in the middle of the night when Mom ran away. It got worse the night I got the phone call from family members saying that Dad had gone to the hospital via ambulance. I spent countless hours talking to friends and family, coordinating information and phone trees. Everyone wanted to be informed as to what was going on. Doctors needed permission to perform certain procedures. Mom had an outburst and needed new meds. On and on and on the phone rang. All these months later, I am still tired of hearing the phone ring and weary of talking on it.

I also had a flashback when Patricia talked about losing her pet. When I was a kid, I had a dog named Snowball. We rescued him from a crazy house that had a dozen dogs running around. He was a small ball of white fur, hence his name. Dad always pretended to be less than thrilled that we had him and our other dogs. But over the years, as Snowball outlived other pets, Dad got quite attached.

I remember them bringing him out to NY on one of their visits. My poor baby was so old and arthritic that he had a hard time staying away from the puppies and getting up to bed. When my parents were getting ready to leave, I hugged my dog goodbye. He buried his head in my shoulder and gripped my shoulder with his claws. He didn't want to leave me. As my parents pulled away, he pulled himself up to watch me out the back window. He hadn't been able to do that in years. A couple of weeks later, I called home. Mom said he was pretty bad. I asked her to put the phone up near his ear. I told him he had been a good dog and I loved him very much. It was okay for him to go. The next day he couldn't walk. Mom and Dad had to take him to the vet to be put down. Dad was a mess for days.

I remember having a similar conversation with my father on that last day. I told him a hundred times how much I loved him and what a great father he had been. I told him we were going to be fine. It was okay for him to let go. I played "Goodbye" by Eddie Vedder and got ready for bed. He let go soon after.

This book is also available from Yesterday's Muse.

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