Friday, June 06, 2008

Then Comes the End

I was tired when I returned from Moab last Friday. About 2:30 AM on Saturday, the phone rang. My wife answered it, talked briefly, then put on some clothes and started to leave. I groggily asked her where she was going.

My Mom had called because Dad had slid down to the floor after trying to get out of bed to walk down the hall. He was on the floor and couldn’t get up. I thought I should go, but my wife insisted that I sleep. My wife returned about two hours later. She told me that my Dad was resting and that she’d tell me more about it when we got up.

When we rolled out on Saturday morning, my wife explained that my Dad’s left arm and left leg weren’t working well. It seems obvious that he had suffered another stroke, but there is no additional treatment that the doctors could give beyond the treatment he was already receiving. My wife said that Dad had been quite distressed, but had been resting. I was about to call my Mom when she called to say that Dad was on the floor again and was unable to get himself up.

By the time I arrived, my youngest brother had fortunately stopped by to visit. My Dad was very agitated and had difficulty being rational. We knew that Dad’s time on earth was short, so we had been in contact with a hospice provider. They offered to bring in a hospital bed. But my brother and I quickly surmised that there was no way Mom could take care of Dad at home without 24x7 competent assistance. We figured that Dad needed to be in a care facility.

But we found out that Dad’s insurance wouldn’t help cover the first 30 days of the care facility unless he first spent three nights in the hospital. It seemed that our only option was to take Dad to the hospital.

I hate going to the emergency room. But midday on a sunny Saturday is generally quite slow. When we arrived, there wasn’t much happening, so Dad was taken in immediately. They moved Dad from the wheelchair to a bed. Dad never left that bed until the morticians picked him up yesterday morning.

After arriving at the hospital on Saturday, I spent a lot of time there as Dad went from being able to communicate to not taking food, to not taking liquids, to doing nothing more than sleeping, to passing on. My Mom stayed right there near Dad’s side the entire time. She slept in his room. My youngest brother was up there nearly as much as I was.

I got to bed late after getting home from the hospital on Wednesday evening. About 2:30 AM my Mom called to say that it was looking like Dad wouldn’t be around much longer, so I high-tailed it to the hospital. Then Dad’s breathing stabilized in a regular but labored pattern.

An hour or so later, a couple of my brothers arrived. We had Mom rest, and we kept vigil at Dad’s bedside. When more than an hour passed with no change whatsoever, my brothers insisted on sending me home for rest. I had been burning the candle at both ends for a number of days. I returned home and hit the sack. Less than 20 minutes after doing that, my brother called to say that Dad had passed away. I was grateful that at least two of the children were with Mom at that time.

I quickly returned to the hospital. One of my brothers had gone out of town on a long-planned cross country RV trip with his family and parents-in-law a day before Dad’s problems started. He has been checking in, but hasn’t been able to be with us, as have the rest of the boys. (My parents have only sons.) My youngest brother soon arrived. We sat around Dad’s bed chatting, reminiscing, and praying until the morticians arrived. They handled Dad’s remains very respectfully.

After going to breakfast, we gathered at the mortuary to make arrangements. Many of the decisions had already been made. We had written an obituary and had planned the funeral program. We knew what kind of casket Dad wanted. It wasn’t difficult to match up the various services offered with my Dad’s personality type. Still, that meeting lasted 2½ hours.

In the meantime, my oldest brother, who travels a lot, started making arrangements for my vacationing brother to fly back in time for the funeral. His family is out on the east coast now, and it really isn’t feasible for them to drive all the way back home in time. This means that some of Dad’s grandchildren won’t be there.

After the mortuary meeting, we took Mom home and made her go to bed. Two of my brothers had other duties, so my youngest brother and I stayed, fielded calls, and started gathering the things needed by the mortuary. We went through boxes and boxes of thousands of photographs to extract a small handful that will be displayed for the funeral. We greeted neighbors, got burial clothes together, etc.

Finally, my wife came around 10:30 PM and kicked us out of the house so that we could go home and rest. My wife stayed overnight so that Mom would not have to spend the first night after Dad’s passing alone.

Today I spent the morning finishing up on getting things together for the mortuary, and then Mom and I met with the mortuary representatives. I helped Mom with some grocery shopping. Then we shopped for headstones. Late this afternoon I finally got home and looked at the computer for the first time in days. I did get a quick post about last week’s Moab trip done the other day, but other than that, I haven’t been on the computer.

The past few days have intensified my feelings about the importance of family and about the eternal nature of the soul — the things that really matter. I will post another time about my Dad. But that will have to come after the funeral. We’re going to be very busy until then.


Anonymous said...

It's good that most of the family could be around to share this burden.

I hope the peace of the Spirit may rest in your heart and the hearts of your mother's family.

J. Max Wilson said...

Thanks for sharing this. May the Lord bless you and your family.

Cameron said...

My condolences, Reach.

Tom said...

My heart goes out to you. It's times like these when words seem inadequate. May the Lord bless and keep you and yours.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your loss. Hope your family bears it well. And may God be with you in this time of need.

y-intercept said...

I give my condolences for your family's loss.

It is sad that the insurance company failed to provide the end of life experience (hospice care) you had hoped for your father.