Tuesday, July 13, 2010

'I love you, Dad'

Yesterday, Dad was qyute alert for much of the day -- for the most part unable to speak, but speaking a lot with his eyes. At one point we each got to tell him that we loved him, and he was able to say the same in return; then, he showed that he wanted to give us a kiss, so we each bent down and received a kiss on the cheek. When it was my turn, I kissed him three times on the forehead, and gave him the blessing that I give my children: "May God bless you and keep you, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen." This said with the sign of the cross made on his forehead. Not surprisingly, everyone was weeping -- but it was also a very blessed time.

My sense of this being a period of waiting -- like Advent -- continues. I spent a good deal of time today taking care of my sister's children while she spent time with Dad; I also had a good chunk of time to say the rosary with him (well, he didn't say it -- he has been sleeping muchof the time). He continues to have sleep apnea, where he will stop breathing for up to a minute, and then breath again in deep, gasping breaths. The hospice nurse assures us that this is more of an involuntary bodily reaction than something making him uncomfortable, which makes it easier to bear. His blood pressure and other vitals continue to look more or less normal -- although after five days of not eating or drinking, obviously this can't go on forever. He seemed much more peaceful today than he has since I got here, except for when people move him, which is still very uncomfortable.

Last night the entire family was with him until almost midnight, expecting the end (his breathing was very ragged and his pulse rate had slowed down so much). Tonight we will gather again to pray.....

Here is another amazing entry from my sister's blog -- you can get directly to her blog from the link in the sidebar of this blog. It's called, "It's STILL a Blessing." And, incidentally, thanks to all who have left comments or messages -- they are much appreciated.

Monday, July 12, 2010A day of goodbyes and happiness

My mother told a good friend of hers who came to pray at my Dad's bedside: "Today has been one of the hardest days of my life. But it's also been a day of happiness."

What a gift, what joy today has been. For the day, we had our Dad back. He was very awake and alert, knew who was with him and seemed to understand what we said to him. He was unable to talk but as my mom put it, "He talked to us with his eyes."

I came over about 1:30 today, hoping to have some time with my Dad. But it seemed that there was either someone in the room praying or else he was sleeping and he was not to be disturbed. I had come with my children and they were already fizzling out quickly. In disappointment, I headed for home and told myself that I really didn't need to be there. If it happened, then it happened. But I had wanted a chance to talk to my Dad one last time. However, he never seemed to know I was there.

Dennis understood my pain. He kept trying to talk me into going back but I stubbornly refused. I was hurt and angry. Me and my Dad never had the greatest relationship and I felt that his last moments were precious. However, he kept asking for everyone but me, and as selfish as it may have been to be thinking of myself, I was hurt.

Restless, I told Dennis I would like to go to Adoration to pray. On my way over, my sister called to tell me that my Dad was very alert and at peace. In the morning, he had been agitated, but then some friends came over and gave my Dad a healing cross and laid it on his chest and said the Divine Mercy chaplet. My Dad opened his eyes then and fixed them on my mom. From that moment on, there was a real peace about him. When he was sleeping, he slept normally. The apnea was completely gone.

My sister told me this story and said that a family rosary was planned if I could be there. I didn't really give my sister an answer--I knew I would be there, but I couldn't bring myself to say the words. I went to church as planned and after entering the chapel, I picked up a prayer book. I don't remember the exact words, but basically it said that we all make choices and that bad choices that hurt ourselves and others will only stop Christian love. And the longer that goes on, the more crippling it can be in our spiritual lives. I knew then that I would go. As Dennis said, "Put your feelings behind you and be there for your family."

I arrived and found that my mom was with my Dad. I didn't want to disturb her so I chatted with a family friend for a while. Then my mom came out and told me that my Dad wanted to see me.

I went in the room to find my Dad in the same weakened condition and unable to talk, but awake. He raised his hand to me and I held it. I then told him what I've wanted to say all my life:

"Sometimes children misunderstand and think the wrong thing about their parents in life, but then they grow up and realize that they all along they just really didn't understand. I misunderstood you, Dad, and I realize now that you did the best you could with me. You gave me all you could give me. And you were a father in the most complete sense. I've always known you loved me, even though we didn't understand each other or get along very well.

I love you, Dad, I always have. And I forgive you for everything and I hope you forgive me for the hurts I caused you. You've been a good Dad, and I thank you."

Through this speech my Dad squeezed my hand even harder, his face showed many different expressions, one of which he looked like if he had the tears, he would cry. I was already sobbing through this and when I finally stopped talking, my Dad looked at me and breathed out the words, "I love you."

The emotional burden of hurt and anger that I carried through a lifetime was lifted, I felt that God had answered my prayers of healing.

It's the first time I ever said "I love you" to my Dad. It's about the 5th time that he's said it to me.

The years of frustration with each other don't matter anymore, for today, I felt close to my Dad. Later, my Dad somehow conveyed the messege that he would like us to pray. We gathered around his bedside again and prayed the rosary. He was awake through it all, he was beginning to look scared again. After the rosary, he kept pursing his lips to kiss. My mom bent down to recieve his kiss, and then again, and again and again. The cross that he held so tight was brought to his lips to which he kissed.

My sister then offered her his cheek, and he kissed it and she kissed him in return. We all followed suit, all of his children giving him a kiss one last time and telling him how much we loved him.

My turn came and I again broke down. Now that I had my Dad I didn't want to let him go. I laid my head on my chest and told him, "I love you, I love you." I can never make up for enough "I love you's" in a day.

I went back to Adoration later in the evening to pray this time for my Dad. I felt at peace now, I was sad but I was at peace. Before I left the chapel I prayed to Jesus: "I have one thing to ask of You. Let him sleep. Let him sleep. Let him sleep."

When I got home he had lapsed into a coma. My mom had told him, ironically at the same time when I was at the chapel praying, "Go to sleep, Norm. It's ok to sleep now." My Dad said one last time, "Oh God."

His apnea has come back, he is no longer responsive. He is at about 50 seconds of no breathing now. We spent about 2 hours at his bedside praying, but my mom told us to go to bed. To leave him in God's hands. She would sleep with him.

I will be so sad to lose my Dad. But at the same time, I feel that God has been in this with us. God never snatches his souls to him, but takes them with a gradual drawing from our arms to His.