Monday, October 31, 2016

Losing Dad

February 2014, Arkansas.
We all knew my dad was going to die, we just didn't know it would be so soon.

My dad's been going through an immunotherapy trial in Nashville for the past 4 months. Each time he has a treatment, he gets a bit loopy, gets diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, takes antibiotics, it clears up and he regains his lucidity.

So when my stepmom called me on Wednesday to tell me she was taking Dad to the hospital and that he was out of his mind, we all thought this would be routine. Get the infection cleared up, send him home, and continue on the journey to a cure.

Instead, she was informed that the tumors had grown significantly in the past several weeks and were impeding his kidney function. There were no more treatment options; he had been out of options for some time. My stepmom was told that he had 3 days to 3 weeks to live. They recommended hospice care for him, to keep him comfortable until he died.

Kristi and I caught a 7 a.m. flight on Friday, October 28th. I had toyed with the idea of traveling on Saturday, but decided to go earlier since my youngest wanted me back home in time for Halloween.

She and I arrived at the hospital at 1:30 p.m. Dad was in a drug-induced sleep the entire afternoon, his chest automatically expanding with his breath, mechanical in its steady rhythm. He was snoring loudly with his mouth wide open, unable to squeeze his hand in yours, open his eyes or respond. He slept with one foot hanging off the bed, a familiar position that I remember from his healthier days. Kristi and Jessie re-positioned him, but throughout the afternoon his left foot kept drifting toward the edge of the bed, even though we never saw him move.

Kristi and I left the room at 5 p.m. to meet with the hospice nurse and set up the hospice care. We asked to see a chaplain, and spent the last 10 minutes of our time in prayer with the chaplain, praying for peace for dad. When we returned to the room, he was gone. The nurse told us she'd just been in just minutes before and he had been breathing the same as previously, so he must've passed in the past 10 minutes while we were praying.

So much for those 3 days.
December 2013 in Valparaiso.
I believe he timed it that way -- he did not want his loved ones to be there to hear his last rattling breath. But he knew his two daughters, the last two family members who hasn't seen him that week, had been there and had said our good-byes.
The Florias attack a model of Chicago.
I am so grateful that we had so many good times together of late. I had just been down over Labor Day weekend to visit, he had come to Minnesota the previous October, and Kristi had many more trips than I, creating many memories with him and with our southern relatives.

Kristi and I are in Arkansas now, helping my stepmom organize her life. We are erasing every sign of his illness in the house -- the adult diapers are being disposed of, medications being purged, hospital bed returned to the agency it was rented from, medical agencies phone numbers erased from the home phone. We are re-instituting the good memories that those items had pushed aside --  photos and the cherished items of his that had been shoved in closets to make way for medical supplies.

In some ways I lost Dad a long time ago; I haven't been able to call to talk books with him in a year. He hasn't been able to give me advice on work-related topics for longer than that. His cancer treatment was all-consuming; it was the only topic he would discuss at any length.

Yet now, he was truly gone. He will not be coming back to us.

It's a lot to process.

I'm sure I'll be writing more on my dad. He was a wonderful storyteller, I can continue on those stories to keep his memory alive.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:11 PM

    I'm so sorry, Jenny. Thanks for sharing this with us. Your dad sounded like a funny, wonderful guy.