About 2 months ago, I lost my 88 yr old father to heart disease. His life was rich with family and friends and memories of driving trucks across America. He made me laugh; he made me cry…but mostly, I knew I was loved and cherished.
When my mother died of breast cancer 21 yrs ago, I made a promise to her that I would take care of dad. He was very independent but he and mom were so close, I was concerned that he might follow her because of a broken heart. My first year caring for dad, I did not sleep much. He called weekly (almost daily) to tell me his heart hurt and he was going to the hospital and getting checked. I would climb out of bed, drive to the hospital and sit with him until he was discharged. His heart was hurting but it was not a physical hurt. He missed the love of his life, my mom.
I was caregiver to my mom the last 6 wks of her life. I was told by Hospice that I could either be mom’s daughter or her nurse. I tried to be both, which was very difficult. I didn’t have much time to grieve for her because 1) my dad needed me to be strong, 2) my relationship broke up at the same time, and 3) I went back to teaching almost immediately after mom passed away. Now that dad is gone, I am retired. I have no job to help “cover over” the hurting part of me.
I guess I am a little shocked that dad’s death has hit me as hard as it has. The past 15 months have been difficult for me. Dad’s health began to falter soon after the New Year. He had a heart attack and did not say anything to anyone about feeling badly. His blood pressure and pulse were extremely low when I checked and he now complained of someone sitting on his chest, so off to the Emergency room we went. He was eager to get there because he could not breathe well.
In the middle of the night he had a heart catheterization done showing an artery 100% blocked but they could not fix it because it was enclosed in a large blood clot. If the clot had broken loose, it would have gone to his brain or his lungs and killed him. They put him on heparin to thin his blood and help rid dad of the blood clot, but in doing so, he began having bleeding in his urine. One doctor wanted to send him home the day after the catheterization and I had to point out pure blood in his urine bag. Finally, about a week later, he went home.
Within the same week dad got home, he began coughing deeply. He had a hard time breathing. Hospice had been called in to help me care for dad because he was becoming very stubborn and telling everyone he was fine, when he was very ill. I took him to the doctor’s office, and they began giving him oxygen while they waited for an ambulance to take him to the hospital. Now dad had pneumonia. He also had congestive heart failure and renal failure. He did not look good but refused to admit he was not doing well. February 8th he was discharged from the hospital and while we waited for a wheelchair so he could go home, my phone rang telling me that his sister had just passed away from the same thing he was struggling with. He now had only 2 siblings left, out of 9 original siblings.
During the month of February, he tried doing things he used to do but as time went on, he slowed down. He slept more and more. He had to be on oxygen 24 hours a day. Some of my siblings thought I had called Hospice too soon, but it was more to help me than for dad. They had given me a “Comfort bag” of medications to give, but I hid it. It contained Morphine drops and Ativan. I did not want him taking it unless he absolutely needed it.
He was very negative about taking medications or having the hospice people come into our home. He tolerated their visits and said very little to them. When I would answer for him, because he would not, he got very angry and told me I was telling them lies about his health. I was not, but just as my mom had done, he denied that his health was getting worse.
At nights he would call me into his room. He wanted arrangements made for his funeral and memorial service. He wanted his obituary written. He wanted songs picked out. He wanted a Marine Honor Guard to play Taps. I cried a lot with him, and he cried with me. He told me who was to get his trucks; his hats; his clothing, etc. This was all very stressful for me and I would cry many nights before sleeping, if I was even able to sleep.
Midway through March, I had breathing problems. The hospice nurses told me I needed to call my doctor and be seen but when I did, the nurse insisted I go to the Emergency Room because I could not breathe and talk at the same time. I was admitted to the hospital with my blood pressure 220/140 and was put on oxygen immediately. When in the room, I was given medications for urine retention, blood pressure (which they were very concerned with), and several other medications. I was in the hospital 4 days. I got a call from Hospice saying dad was having a very difficult time breathing and they wanted to bring in a hospital bed, which they did, with my permission. They also began giving him morphine and ativan to calm him down and quiet his breathing.
When I first went to the hospital, he knew me and told me he loved me and take care of myself. My sister came down from her home immediately to help dad and let me relax while in the hospital, which I could not do. Saturday, my roommate came to the hospital and told me she did not think dad had much time left. I began asking to be discharged so I could be with dad. The doctors did not want to discharge me, but eventually gave in to my wishes. I got home Sunday afternoon, and I told dad I was there. He did not acknowledge me. My heart was broken. He now had round the clock nurses and the doctor was coming every day.
Family members came in to see dad before he passed. Papers were gathered together and trips to the funeral home were made. Services were finalized. My niece and I gathered pictures and bought frames to display them and she and my brother and her husband and daughter made a video presentation to be played prior to the services. March 29, 2016, which would have been my mother’s 87th birthday, my dad took his last breathe and went to be with her and his Heavenly Father. What a birthday party they must have had.
Sunday all services would take place. A viewing for one hour, a memorial service and then burial. He was a loved man. His friends loved him very much, but his family loved him so much more. We had a reception after the services so those who were from out of town could visit one another. Then in the following week, everyone went home….except me. The house is so quiet and empty. It just seems so unnatural.
I have been writing letters to insurance companies and credit card companies in order to notify them of dad’s passing. He expected his life insurance policies to help each of his 5 children out a bit. Not much, but all he had. They are virtually nothing. They have to remain in the bank for 1 yr so creditors can take what they want of his remaining funds.
It is extremely stressful for me doing all the paperwork, phone calling, etc but I do have Power of Attorney over dad’s finances and health issues. BUT in addition to this stress, all my siblings live in different states or at least 5 hours away. I found out in January of this year that my brother and his wife would be moving to North Carolina. My other brother had moved several years ago to Tennessee, my one sister lives in north Florida and the other one in a nursing home in Pennsylvania. I miss my family. I miss my father. I am retired, so I have no work place in which to turn. My friends from work are all busy trying to get ready for the end of the year.
I feel so alone. I am really shocked about how much I miss my dad but really, he lived with me for 15 months and I got to know him again, after living on my own for many years. It has hit me hard, and when I least expect it. I get angry about everything and I know it is displaced anger. I feel as if my heart has been ripped out of my heart. I do have times when I am happy and laughing, but much of the time, I am sleeping, or crying or ranting and raving. My health is suffering because of this. My faith in God has faltered.
I know Jesus is with me. I know God knows the grief of losing His only son. I know they know the rejection of people or Jesus feeling so alone and forgotten while on the cross. My brain knows all these things. It knows I will be whole again. I will stop having all this heart-wrenching, breath-taking grief. One day I will breath and laugh freely again. And if won’t be hard walking through this house.
Even though my faith is shaken, Jesus is with me upholding me. Even though I ache like my heart has been ripped from my chest, God knows this same grief, for He lost His only Son. Even though gut-wrenching cries and screams are all I am able to get out at times, the Holy Spirit goes before God on my part. One day, I will be healed of this pain. My body will be stronger. Am I strong enough to go through this alone?? NO WAY….but with Jesus, I am strong enough. I rely on Jesus to carry me when I can no longer walk or carry on. I sleep when I need rest, even in the middle of the day. I will be whole. I will not hurt like this always. I trust God to continue to minister to my spirit. I know with Jesus, I will make it through. Right now, however, there are days when my faith is shaken…shaken yes….but not destroyed!
I looked at my bath towel set last night. One towel says, Trust; one says, Praise; one says, Believe. I thought about it. I am trusting God to carry me through this and I believe He will and I will be whole. What I have not been doing is praising God. I praise him for 15 months in close contact with dad. I praise him for being able to prepare a memorial service that brought honor and respect and love to Dad’s memory. I praise God for dad’s love and loyalty for us kids and how he tried to make ways easier for us. AND I praise God for heartache, unquenched and overwhelming, which turns my heart to God and Jesus for their help and strength. AND I praise God for His Holy Spirit, who intercedes for me when I am unable to communicate verbally.
Dad is with Jesus, whole and alive in Him. He is free of pain and suffering, as is mom. They are together again after a 21 yr separation and I know I will see them again when my time on earth is done. Thank you, Jesus for reminding me to Praise you!!!!