Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My Father: The Final Steps

This is going to be an incredibly journal-esque post, and I have so many deep emotions that I am still working hard to process.

My father is dying.  This singular phrase has, over the course of the last 8 months, taken my family on the most nauseating, horrifically painful, emotionally exhausting roller coaster I have ever experienced.  To be even more blunt, it has been the freaking suckiest I-don't-swear-but-I've-never-wanted-to-swear-more-in-my-life experience EVER.  I have kept so much of this experience very quiet, but the end is near; my father is soon to take his final steps to the next realm, and begin his post-mortal journey on the other side of the veil...and I'm sad.

My visit to New York in October of last year was strangely on par with some almost prophetic thoughts I had before I went.  I knew my dad was having pain, but there was something inside of me that didn't want to go to NY, some part of me that already knew that the trip would be the beginning of a journey I sooo didn't want to take; the journey of saying goodbye to a father I love.  I told my husband about it, and he understood.  The entire 10 days in NY was spent holding in sobs of grief and anguish, listening to my father moan in pain from the room next door, seeing the lab results and trembling with sorrow as I told my father what they were, and sitting in the room with my father as the doctor told him he may not make it to his 63rd birthday...July 22nd.  That trip was the beginning of an 8 month ride on the roller coaster from (seemingly) hell, itself.

Each and every step from that trip in October has been littered with filthy, bad news.  A simple turn for the worse would have spared my father, my mother and the rest of us the emotional and physical anguish of the alternative, prolonged suffering.  We started with pain, and went through multiple ER visits, then days and days and days of phone calls with multiple hospital staff, then surgery, then another surgery, then another surgery, then prolonged healing, then infections, then immobilization, then transportation issues, then transfusions, then chemo, then more infections, then more transfusions, then fighting with a mean crochety old nurse, and talking with doctors who thought I was incompetent, then nursing home placement, while additionally thinking of how everything was affecting my mother financially (the system does NOT take care of you, my friends, learn it now, be prepared), more infections because the nursing home BOTCHED patient placement, fighting with nursing home nurses, having tense family phone calls with all 5 children and a mother with emotions running high, and all the while trying to play the level-headed nurse-daughter.  

If I tell you I've called my mom almost every day for the last 8 months, would you believe me?  If I told you I spent an entire day making repetitive phone calls to 8 different modalities to get them to give my dad some attention at the hospital, would yo believe me?  If I told you I've gotten panic phone calls from my dad in the middle of the night, would you believe me?  Perhaps that I called the nursing home nurses station 30 times in a row one night because no one was answering the phone?  Or maybe that I fought tooth and nail with 4 different nurses at the nursing home multiple times over the fact that they exposed my father to an infection that he contracted?  There's always the phone calls to the NYS Department of Health, or maybe the calls to the Director of Nursing she never returned.

All of this while trying to encourage and support a father to get better and work hard and not knowing if he was actually going to get better, or even be *able* to work hard.  And watching him waste away into a crippled, sallow, shadow of the man I remember, as the cancer sucked the life out through his bones, day by day.  Seeing my sweet, strong, capable mother witness the same thing, only through the eyes of a wife, and knowing she must be hurting twice as much.

I have cried so many times for so many things over the course of the last 8 months.  I've cried for my dad, and my mom, and for me of course.  I've cried for my little brother who was so blinded with grief he couldn't bring himself to see his own father for 8 weeks for fear he would be forced to face reality.  I've cried for my children, knowing they wouldn't have a grandpa to come visit them on their birthday.  I've cried because there were days when I couldn't bear to be the strong one for one...more...day.  It completely exhausted me to be the un-emotional-objective-nurse, while still trying to allow myself to deal with the hurt and the sadness.  And even though everyone who has walked this earth since the beginning of time has lost their father, and knowing that death is a part of life, I still cried because, I hadn't lost him yet, and I still haven't.  

So I am still crying.  I am still crying, because the journey has not ended yet.  I am still crying because deep down, I am a little girl who is losing her daddy, and that makes me sad.  I love my dad.  And he has been the best father I could have ever hoped to have in this life.  I have so many wonderful memories of this man who gave me life, and now, I need to start saying my final good-byes.

My father is feeling that the time is very near, and his bishop who gave him a blessing last night also feels the time is very near.  So my plan to visit for July 4th has been moved to this weekend.  My father is dying, and this may well be the last time I see him alive.  

My wonderful husband has been so understanding and supportive, and has caught every tear that I have shed on his shoulders as he has held me close.  I'm grateful that he cares and his family cares, because honestly, there are moments when even though I know loss surrounds everyone, it feels like no one cares.  Friends whom I love, don't seem to care that my dad is dying...and I have to tell myself, "Hey, it's not *their* dad, so they aren't going to be emotional.".  But I still feel like they should, and I'm still struggling with how to feel about that.

I've wanted to be able to write down my thoughts for so long, and here they are.  The journey is not done, there are still those final steps to take, and I will cry again and again, to cleanse my soul of this bitter and painful experience, so I can start to heal this long and deep wound.

My father is dying, and I'm going home to say good-bye.


Christy Wheeler said...

It is so hard to read this. I am thinking of you and hope you have a good trip. It is weird to say have a good trip, but I hope that you do feel the peace and comfort you need while visiting. Losing a parent it hard. It is hard no matter how it happens. My moms death was sudden and unexpected. I sometimes wish I had the chance to say goodbye. The same thing that you are now probably dreading to do. No one wants to say goodbye, but we don't want to miss the chance also.
I hope you enjoy this last time with your dad. The peace of knowing you will be together again is the greatest comfort you will find. It really isn't ever over.

Austie Bost said...

This is the saddest post EVER. I am so glad you will all be up there together. You need each other, and you need to sorrow together.

Warburtons said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this tough time.

The Carters said...

Oh Samantha how I wish I was there to give you a hug. I'm sure of one thing and that is that you are one amazing daughter, mother and wife. I look up to you so much and will be praying for you and your family at this time. May the Savior stand beside you in your trials. Much love, thoughts and prayers my friend. -Linda

Kamy said...

I'm so sorry to hear this. Unfortunately, I have been there. I lost my dad when I was 19. The anniversary of his death this year was hard because it was #17. He has almost been gone as long as I knew him on earth. I can tell you all of the movies to avoid. As long as it has been, sometimes I am fine and other times it just hits me. I feel your pain. It's so hard to see the person that you have looked to as your rock look so weak. I totally understand about your children not getting to see Grandpa. My kids never got to meet my dad on this earth but I tell them stories and keep his memory alive. If you ever need to talk, I'm here for you. My email and cell phone are the same. It is a spiritual, emotional, horrible experience losing someone you love. You truly realize how small we all are. Hang in there. My thoughts and prayers are with you.