A Painful Anniversary

Three years ago on this date, my dad lost his battle with esophagus cancer and entered eternity.

I remember him waking up in the wee hours of the morning, unable to catch his breath. We called the paramedics, who rushed right over and strapped him to a gurney for the trip to the hospital.

‘Do you want us to give you something to help you breathe?’ they asked him.

Dad nodded.

His eyes were huge. I’m certain he must have been frightened. And worried.

A ventilator was inserted, and off they went.

Some time later, Dad’s doctor came to the waiting room to inform us Dad wasn’t going to win this round.

‘He’s pulled out of these things before,’ Mom argued.

The doctor’s face was as grim as his words. ‘Not this time.’

He went on to explain what was happening to Daddy medically and, based on his experience, what Daddy’s foreseeable future would entail.

‘He wants to tell us something,’ my mom insisted. ‘Can’t we take the ventilator out?’

‘Yes, I’d recommend that. Let Nature take its course.’

Meaning, Daddy would die?

‘It’s time,’ the doctor said. ‘There’s nothing more we can do other than keep him comfortable.’

After the ventilator was removed, Daddy still couldn’t speak to us. His eyes held ours as he lay on the hospital bed, propped up amid pillows and hooked to various monitors.

We talked to him, held his hands. Prayed.

And tried not to let him see our tears.

Our parish priest came to administer the sacrament of the sick (last rites, it used to be called).

We prayed some more.

By this time, Daddy’s eyes were closed. His breathing was shallow.

‘Is he in pain?’ we asked the nurse.

‘No, we don’t think so,’ she said. ‘This is going to take a while. You all look exhausted. Why don’t you go get a bite of lunch?’

Food? At a time like this?

‘You have to eat,’ she insisted. ‘I’ll call immediately if there’s any change in his condition.’

Grudgingly, we left, but didn’t go far.

About forty-five minutes later, we re-entered the hospital corridor, and Mom’s cell phone went off.

‘We’re here,’ she told the nurse. We raced back to Daddy’s side.

‘This is really it?’ I asked.

The nurse nodded.

‘I’ll turn these monitors off so you don’t have to see or hear them,’ she said.

She pulled the curtains shut, plunging the room into semi-darkness.

Tearfully, we said our goodbyes as Daddy took his last breath.

16 thoughts on “A Painful Anniversary

  1. Oh Debbie, We never forget those final moments when we say our goodbyes to our Dads. It brought tears to my eyes,thinking about “this is really it.” I’m so happy you were right there with him when he took his last breath. Blessings and Hugs across the miles,dear friend.

    • I feel your hug, Kathy, and I thank you for it. Yes, I knew you’d understand, having lost your precious Dad, too. I’m glad we met at that writing conference and have become friends across the miles. I hope 2012 will be wonderful in every way for you!

  2. Oh, jeez, Deb. This brings back memories. I remember we shared this pain – my dad preceded yours in death by 6 months. My heart breaks all over again reading this – for you, for me, and for Kathy Pooler. Your words bring it all back. Here is the most heartfelt hug I can possibly send you: OOOOO

    • Thank you for empathizing and hugging, Lynne! Writing brought the three of us together; who’d have thought we’d share a similar sadness at the passing of our beloved dads? I like to think maybe the three of THEM have met in Heaven and are watching over us here now!

  3. I didn’t read your blog until after you wrote on mine. The Lord had me pray for you and I have a message for you on my blog for today.

    I’m sorry about your dad and the ache in your heart at this time. I have prayed for you today…I care about you! Love ya’

  4. I am so sorry Deb. It’s so hard to lose a family member like that. Such a hard thing. I’m glad you had your Mom and sister with you, and that you were there when he left this earth. Three years probably feels like yesterday and an eternity all at the same time. Hugs to you and your family. I hope you have a peaceful New Year’s Eve tonight. I promise, the pain will ease a little in the future. Though you will always miss him, it’s true that he’s right there in your heart…

    • You’re so right, Dawn — having the rest of my family with me made his passing easier (?) to bear. And yes, sometimes it feels like just yesterday while other times I realize how long three years really is. It’s probably worse on my mom than on the rest of us, and I find I have to be strong for her. Thank you for your words of comfort!

  5. The anniversary of the passing of a loved one is painful. I’m sorry you have to feel this pain. I am glad that you and your family were able to be with him as the end came – I’m sure this helped him to know he was not alone.

    • Logically, I know we don’t come into this world or leave it “attached” to other people, but it must be really hard to die alone. I’m sure Daddy was glad to see us all around his bed, but at the same time, he was worried over leaving us. Perhaps that’s why the nurse encouraged us to leave, so he’d feel more comfortable in the “letting go” process. Thanks for empathizing, Janna!

  6. Death sucks for those left behind. It truly does. Wishing you lots of memory stories to share about the good times and bad time you shared with Mr. Debbie. The times when your heart burst with love and the times he was simple impossible. Wishing you laughter to help balance the sad.

    Sending you love.

    • I feel the love, Katybeth, and am thankful for it! I’m so glad we were on good terms when he passed. My mom is still adjusting to life as a “single” — must be awful after all those years. You could probably teach her a thing or two, my friend, having suffered your own loss.

  7. Oh Debbie, this post resonated with me so much! My father passed away a year and a half ago. I was in Europe and he was in North Carolina. He also suffered from the inability to speak during his last hours. They inserted a ventilator to help him breathe and he was in and out of a state of consciousness. The Son, the Significant Other and I said our goodbyes over the phone. It was like a scene from a movie. I don’t ever want to cry that much ever again. I felt so impotent, so powerless. We were on two different continents and there was nothing I could do. I can feel the tears now as I type this. This holiday season has again been a bit difficult. I miss daddy every day, but especially during summer and now. I’m glad you were by your father’s side and able to say your last goodbye. I feel that it helps one have closure and accept that it’s really happening.Big hugs to you across the miles, friend.

  8. Hugs. I know this had to be difficult to write. We were with my FIL when he took his last breath (cancer as well)…so heartbreaking.

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