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Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Last 72 Hours

A year ago today, at approximately 3:30 p.m., I received another "your father is actively dying" phone call, this time from Fran, my Dad's Physician's Assistant. She acknowledged that although this was the second time they had called me in the span of ~2 weeks with the same message, she really felt that I should leave work to be with my father as soon as possible. After I called my sister, I was heading out of the office to catch the next train home in a matter of minutes.

The time between October 25th and November 7th was relatively quiet. I visited my father both weekends, and spent the nights sleeping - or trying to - on the chair at the foot of his bed. He wasn't showing any signs of declining, but outside of an occasional restless spell, he wasn't doing much more than sleeping 24/7.
By the time I took the train home, got packed and headed north, I ended up arriving in Kingston about 4 hours later. My sister arrived at about the same time, and our second bedside vigil began. Without being able to provide an exact reason or explanation - medical or otherwise -  I think we both knew that this time the outcome would be different. 

A lot happened over the next few days. Spelling each other when we could, we made road trips to the funeral home we had chosen as well as the cemetery ( Chapel Lawn ) my Dad had pointed out several times over the years on trips to Harvey's Lake. All contracts were signed and paid-in-full by Friday. My Dad's financial planning and power-of-attorney decisions put us in a position where we did not - for a second - have to think: "How are we going to pay for this?" Based upon the horror stories we heard from both the funeral director and the cemetery manager, a significant majority of folks have no clue what to do or how to pay for things and believe "everyone will be willing to wait for the life insurance policy payout." They also talked about being unwilling and unfortunate witnesses to some major family (financial) blowouts over the years when the actual cost of funerals and burials became painfully apparent. The more siblings involved, the greater the emotional histrionics...or so we were told. 

Anyway, thanks primarily to the caregivers angels from Hospice of the Sacred Heart, my sister and I had the ability to leave my father for short periods of time on to accomplish all of the above on Thursday and Friday. My wife, an RN with 35 years experience, stopped by to be with us and see my Dad first thing Saturday morning. After spending time assessing my father's vitals and overall condition, especially focusing on his extremities, she looked directly at me, and then my sister, and said: "Don't go too far." 

We listened, and less than eight hours later, my father breathed his last. 

The last 72 hours we spent with my father was an incredible journey that is indelibly etched on my soul. I'll share some of what I remember in the days ahead.

   My father - 11 Jan 2012 

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