I Remember

As I write, I remember. It is 5:45 p.m. Two years ago at this exact moment, my father passed away.

___

In the front bedroom where he had slept for 56 years, we stood around him — my mother, my sister, my son, and I. That morning, the hospice nurse was unable to get a blood pressure reading. She’d told me we were very close to the end, that she would be surprised if he made it through the day. Then she called the doctor, informed him of Dad’s vitals, and reminded him that Dad was a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate). Just let it happen, the doctor said.

Dad was in the final stage of dementia. End-stage dementia causes a person to lose the ability to swallow; therefore, he could not eat or drink. It was Day 13 without food or water. He can’t die today, I kept saying. Not March 31. It was the first anniversary of the death of Terri Schiavo, who created a furor of national proportions after her feeding tube was removed and she died of malnutrition and dehydration. Like Dad was doing.

Late afternoon my sister pulled Dad’s old tape player out of the closet and snapped in a gospel tape. The song “Rise Again” came on. … I’ll rise again. There’s no power on earth can tie me down. Yes, I’ll rise again. Death can’t keep me in the ground.

He took a breath … silence … then another … silence … a soft breath … then no more. He swallowed. He’s gone, isn’t he, my mother said. My son put his ear to Dad’s chest – a faint heartbeat, then no more. What time is it, my mother said. It’s 5:45, my son and I said.

I looked up at the ceiling. Bye, Dad, I said.

The funeral home backed a black hearse up to the front door and removed my father’s body, as my sister and I stood in the front yard, arms around each other, on grass Dad had mowed all our lives in front of the only home we’d ever known, and watched our father go west down Deering.

Bye, Dad, I said.

Dad

“Life goes on without you
Though it seems it can’t be right.
All of my tomorrows
Will hold your memories tight.”
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5 Comments on “I Remember”

  1. John says:

    Kathy-

    This is a beautiful remembrance of your father’s final moments. Very touching and very moving. Every image is clear, every detail draws us in as though we were there with you.

    Beautiful and a great tribute to a father you obviously loved very much.

    Thank you for sharing.

    John

  2. inktarsia says:

    Dallas Holm’s was such a fitting song for those final minutes. I love this picture of your father, saluting just as he would have wanted to when he left. (He would have checked the oil in all the cars first.) I’ve come to cherish your father through your writing. Thank you for this. –Sherry

  3. sarahemc2 says:

    This is so lovely. I will hold your father, and your family, in my prayers tonight.

    Peace,
    Sarah

  4. Kathy says:

    Thanks, John and Sherry and Sarah!

  5. Nancy says:

    I so know how you feel. My dad had Parkinson’s disease which also results in dementia in its end stage. He died recently, and I was there at the end- very similar to what you described. It was heartbreaking and traumatic for me, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.

    The day he died was the same day that 20 years earlier, my sister’s newborn son also died.

    We are burying him this Friday- on what would have been his 76th birthday.


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