You Never Know
You never know the last time you will see a loved one.
A couple of weeks after Christmas I left work at 4:30, my usual time. It was already dark by the time I reached the care home. There were plenty of parking spots Wednesday evening, no one wanted to be out in the below-zero Minnesota winter.
The Usual Guilt
There was something to look forward to on this visit, a concert was scheduled downstairs; it would give us something to do.
We stayed at the concert a short time. He just stared straight ahead, no reaction. I did find it interesting he always sat erect in the wheel chair, no slumping over for Dad.
I wheeled him back up to his floor. The usual guilt set in:
How long should I stay?
Would it be okay to leave before it was too late in the evening?
I knew I should stay longer, I hated to leave him, but my heart was so heavy, I couldn’t hardly bear to see him in this state.
My husband John, ever MY caregiver, would have a hot dinner waiting for me at home. I could not have made it through those days without my husband taking care of me.
Lewy was growing in Dad’s brain at full-bore. Maybe Lewy was his brain. I said goodbye and left him sitting erect in his chair, staring straight ahead, in the care of the nurse.
Still sad. Still feeling guilty.
Two days later, Friday evening, I received a call from the nurse. “Your father is especially lethargic tonight. He doesn’t want to eat. His blood pressure is up. We just wanted to let you know.”
“Is this the end?” I asked.
“We don’t think so but call back before you go to bed.” I alerted my sisters.
I called back at 10:00 P.M. “How is Lee”?
“Better, he rallied and ate a little soup. He is sleeping now.”
I sent my sisters a progress report.
It is never good when your phone rings at 2:00 a.m.
“Hello?” I sleepily answered.
“Yes, Ms. Poland, I am sorry to report your Dad did not make it.” It was an unfamiliar voice with a slight accent.
Didn’t make it? I thought in my fog.
Didn’t make it to dinner?
Didn’t make it to the bathroom?
“What do you mean?” I asked, in denial.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Poland, your father passed away during the night. The nurse checked on him, he was sleeping, and a half hour later he was gone.”
“What do you want us to do?”
“Umm, I’ll call you back.”
I was numb. I called my sisters one by one. One sister thought she might drive to the home.
Another round of calls.
We decided to let them take his shell to the morgue.
Lewy won the battle, but I know my Dad had a big smile and twinkling blue eyes when he ran to Jesus.
This song by MercyMe says it all:
Dad’s Deal with God
It is ironic that our father died in his bed. Years ago he told me he had a deal with God – when he died, he would just pass peaceably in his sleep. That is what apparently happened. (I didn’t know a person could make such a deal with God!)
We also concluded he slipped away during the night because he didn’t want his daughters gathered around the bed weeping and wailing, like we did when our mother passed. (Okay, we are Scandanavians, not a whole lot of wailing was going on. But there was weeping.)
Yup, that would be our dad, stubborn and independent to the end.