For those that understand the "whys and wherefores" of these posts...thank you.
For those that don't...you will, someday.
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The time spent with our father from late Wednesday, November 7th through Saturday afternoon, November 10th was fairly quiet as far as my father’s activity level was concerned. He was never “awake” at any point in time that I can recall, and he certainly never showed any signs of snapping out of his slumber as he did on October 25th. His breathing remained pretty much the same, his vitals did as well, and the telltale signs of approaching death the medical folks were looking for just weren’t happening yet. With the minimal amount of medications being administered, they (primarily the RN’s from Hospice of the Sacred Heart) were keeping my father comfortable. The battles he was waging deep within, and where they were taking place, were not readily apparent to us.
At one point on either Wednesday or Thursday, one of his RN caregivers asked: “Is he waiting for someone or something?” Putting it as best I can, they felt that his overall condition was such that he was on the verge of dying, and had been for several days, but something was keeping him fighting to stay alive for much longer than they thought he would. By Thursday or Friday at the latest, all of his long-time friends and caregivers – and most of the staff at Tiffany Court – had come in to say a final so long to my father. Just recalling those scenes and writing about them right now is pretty tough for me to do…even a year later.
And as all of his grandchildren and relatives had already visited or called him, my sister and I came up with two possibilities;
- He was waiting for a final visit from our mother, or
- He was waiting for Veteran’s Day.
Being a flag-waving patriotic Korean War veteran who was born on June 14th – Flag Day – the latter possibility made some sense…at least to us. So as soon as it could be arranged, my mother spent some one-on-one time at my father’s bedside. Right now, I cannot recall if it was Friday or Saturday morning – but it was definitely one of the two. My sister and I waited outside my father’s room until she indicated she had said her peace and final good-bye.
My Dad hung on for many more hours after her visit, so we moved on to believing that making it to Veteran’s Day was his goal. Sometime on Saturday, November 10th, 2012, I began a countdown to Veteran’s Day. Once again, remembering that “the hearing goes last”, I believe I started at noon by sitting next to my father and saying something like: "Dad, it’s Don. It’s noon on the day before Veteran’s Day. Hang in there, soldier. Twelve hours to go."
For the next 4 hours, exactly on the hour, I did pretty much the same thing. During all of this, and over the past few days, we had the Bose CD/radio in his room playing Al Jolson, Tommy Dorsey, patriotic marches and many of his favorite artists from decades past including one of his favorites; Patti Page's version of The Tennessee Waltz. No distractions or disruptions, just a calm setting during the time we had left with him in the place he called home for the past 5 years.Somewhere between 4 and 5 p.m. - probably closer to 5 - we noticed an almost imperceptible change in my father’s breathing rate. After staring at the man almost every waking moment over two-and-a-half days, hoping to see him rally once again, I knew…we knew, something had changed.
I learned many invaluable lessons from my father over the 57 years we had together. Perhaps, just perhaps, he saved his best lesson for last.
More in a few.
More in a few.