This is a piece about the last full night I spent with my Dad in hospice. We are one month out from his death so I am feeling tender about the experience, still so heavy in my mind and heart.
January 18, 2020
One month, one month ago today we were told you transitioned into an active phase of dying.
As if we all aren’t actively dying from the very moment we breathe air independently outside our mother’s womb.
As if this simple curt explanation could convey rational and reason to your rapid decline. This blanket statement could calm my anxieties, my fears, my loneliness, my gut wrenching shock.
This was the answer to all of my unanswered questions. A stranger’s professional response to my never to be had yearn for a last conversation with you.
Aaaaaahhhhh ok, now I understand- Dad is actively dying. Well that resolves it then.
Hopes dashed. Window of opportunity locked and shuttered tight.
There would be no more you, as I knew you.
Only a shell of the man I called Dad. Frail, thin, gaunt and gray. Almost unrecognizable in every sense of the word. Eliciting moans or unintelligible garble, occasional winces or grimacing, a rare smile. Eventually giving way to calm?, peace?, sleep? I suppose.
I wondered where you were. Were you still here with me? Were you aware on some basic instinctual level that someone you loved who loved you back was present? Bearing witness, advocating, comforting. Trying to ease you to the end of your road, our road together. Going the distance with you as far as the physical and spiritual boundaries of life as we know it allows.
Hours limping by as I watch you sleep?. Breathe and then not. I count the seconds. I wait with bated breath. Burning the moments into my mind many times over as the night ambles on. Each time after these long pauses you gulp air, hungrily. As if coming up from a deep underwater dive. I feel relieved, but should I?
I didn’t even watch my own newborn daughter sleep with such intensity. But I could not, would not turn away from you. What if I missed it? Your final moments.
So I watched and waited. At times lulling into a fitful sleep. Awakened by your heave and choke of inhales.
Morning crept upon us. It didn’t happen, yet. You’re still here. Just another dying human in the active phase of dying while the rest of the world races on in typical morning flurry. I am here. You are not alone. Those that love you, our world has stopped to match pace with yours.
Thanks for reading.