I’m sitting in a hospice room listening to my father’s increasingly labored breath. Four days ago he had a “massive” stroke. With the bleeding in his brain, there is no hope of him recovering. So we, my sister and I, keep our vigil, as do our families and friends who keep checking in with us.
I feel I’m in a kind of limbo. Not totally here or there, but still conscious. My sinuses are in turmoil from the dry hospital air, the warmth of his room, so I don’t want to cry and add to the already difficult situation.
And yet any word or look or touch can set them off.
My father’s heart is so strong that it’s going to keep going until there are no more resources left to feed it. His body is no longer voiding, is small and fragile and hot to touch. We keep the covers off of him now. We are learning what dying is like.
Our father has been tired for a long time now and I think he, if he was aware, would be glad that his long and feisty battle with Parkinson’s Disease is almost over. That he no longer must depend upon the great reserve of strength that has slowly been worn down, first to a nursing home, then to a walker, then to a wheelchair and now to a bed. I try to be grateful for this stroke. That he is in no pain, that he is “unaware” of the feeble and mortal state he is now in.
Even though he demanded “no resuscitation” and we are complying with his wishes, to not hydrate him, to not feed him is so damn hard. I feel like we are killing him even though I know it isn’t true. My sister feels the same way. We hold on to each other when what is happening to him overwhelms us
Our father is 86 years old. I know if he could speak to us, he would smile and say, “Don’t worry, this is good. It’s been a long time coming.” I wish that made me feel better. But it doesn’t yet.
Still, all of this I can handle. What I can’t handle right now are my memories. I will visit with them when he has taken his final breath and let us go. When his body has caught up with his spirit. Then I will cry like the daughter of his that I am and mourn my loss of his voice, his smile and his baby blues. And I will dwell, for a while, in my memories of the first man I ever loved and the one I’ve loved the longest.
Until then, I will sit here with my sister and wait.