Today is Memorial Day. It's the day that we remember those who gave their lives to keep our country free. For me, it also is a different kind of memory.
Last year, I went home for Memorial Day weekend. I was personally finished with the school year and planned to stay home for a while. We were having a meeting to discuss Dad's future. There was also going to be a memorial that following weekend for his cousin who had just passed away from cancer. (Yes, my family had an extremely rough year.)
When I got to town, I went up to see Dad at the LTAC facility. They had him sitting up right in a chair, but his eyes were firmly closed. He was very uncomfortable and clawing at the armrests as if he were trying to get up and lie back down in bed. I remember crying and texting my sister that we just couldn't let this go on anymore. He was in too much pain and it wasn't fair.
By Memorial Day, my sister was in town and Dad's sister was in town for the meeting. His other sister and Mom's sister-in-law were en route. I was slowly getting up that day when I got a phone call from my friend. Her mother was one of Dad's nurses.
"Andrea! Your dad is awake! His eyes are open!"
Hallelujah! I had waited six long weeks to see those eyes open. I quickly called everyone and raced up to the hospital. I was so happy to look into his eyes that I cried and took pictures of his beautiful face. We were dancing with joy as we went out to dinner and then stopped by my cousin's house before our meeting.
Then the meeting came.
Dad's kidneys were at 50%. Our options were to either do dialysis, which his Power of Health would not allow, or to discontinue the feeding tubes and move him to Hospice. As much as it hurt, we knew what the right decision would be. I made my sister sign the papers, because my hand just wouldn't work. I called Dad's brother, whose gut reaction was, "I can't come up this week. I have to watch my granddaughter." You know how you get when slapped in the face with something so unbelievable.
The hospital agreed to take him off of his tubes and to just give him a little bit of water, to sustain his body until the rest of the family could arrive to say goodbye. I spent as much time up there with him as I could. I read to him. I played our favorite PBS version of Jane Eyre. I just talked to him. I wanted to squeeze out every last possible moment with him that I could.
That night was the most difficult. I was so tired I could hardly stand up. I needed to go home and get some rest. When I said I was going to leave, I hugged him and he turned his head so that his face pressed into mine. When I pulled away, he had tears streaming down his face. He knew he was about to leave and he didn't want to go. I can still feel that cheek pressed into mine. A few days later, he was gone.
I am sobbing as I write this. Anniversaries always bring up the pain again. I will be completely caught off guard. Last night, we were watching TV while waiting to cook out on the grill. Eric turned on a Memorial Day concert and suddenly I was overcome with emotion, knowing what today was. I had to sit outside and just let it all out. Today I was okay, until I started writing this post. We shall see how I am next Saturday, when it is Dad's one-year anniversary.
Thank you for letting me remember.