Thursday, February 7, 2013

Goodbye, Dad

If you follow this blog, you're probably familiar with the rocky relationship I had with my dad over the years. I went forty-plus years pretty much feeling like I didn't have a father. Alcohol and work were, it seemed, more important to him than relationships with his children.

Thankfully, this past summer I came to a point in my life where I could let go of the resentment, anger, and, yes, hatred I carried around inside of me for so long. It happened rather suddenly. And unexpectedly. And  when it did I was incredibly relieved to have that weight lifted off of my shoulders. Some power from above gave me the courage and energy to move on. I never thought it would happen. But it did. I was finally at peace with my father. (Read about that wonderful day here.) Amazingly, from that point on when he told me he loved me and appreciated me it actually meant something to me. When he said to me one day last August, "I can always count on you," it made me feel so special.

My dad passed away last night--Wednesday, February 6th--at 11:00pm EST. He was 86 years old.

He had been sent from the nursing home he had been in for the last few weeks to the hospital emergency room in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. He was having heart and breathing issues. When I first saw him in the ER on Tuesday I knew he wouldn't last much longer.

My wife, oldest son, and I were the first ones to visit my dad on Wednesday morning. When we got to the hospital he seemed very agitated and uncomfortable. We did our best to comfort him, telling him we loved him and that it was OK to let go if he wanted to.

About 12 hours later, after being moved to another room, my dad was still noticeably uncomfortable. Since he was a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) patient (his wishes) whose prognosis was not good, the orders were given to stop any extraordinary measures to keep him alive. We met with an incredibly caring hospice nurse, and from that point forward the hospital staff merely worked to make my father comfortable. They removed his heart monitor, gave him morphine for his pain, removed his oxygen mask, etc.

Shortly thereafter, my dad fell asleep. And a few hours later, he died very peacefully, surrounded by my mom, my two sisters, my brother, my wife, and me. It was so great that his wife of 60 years and all four of his kids were by his side at the end.

I am very sad today, but I am also happy. Happy that my dad is no longer suffering. Happy we were all together when he passed. And happy that I had mended our relationship before his death. Although it was only six months ago when that happened, the important thing is that it happened. For years and years I frequently thought about how I would feel if I was still carrying around resentment towards my father when he died. Today I can happily say I'll never know that feeling.

Goodbye, dad. I love you. And I know you loved me.

"There is no joy without hardship. If not for death, would we appreciate life? If not for hate, would we know the ultimate goal is love?...At these moments you can either hold on to negativity and look for blame, or you can choose to heal and keep on loving." --Elisabeth KΓΌbler-Ross

6 comments:

  1. Beautifully written, Dean; it made me cry. The way your dad passed reminds me so much of my beloved grandmother's death a few years ago. She too was surrounded by family, and it was one of the most peaceful and moving things I've ever been a part of. My condolences on your loss.

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  2. I am sorry. Peace be with you my friend.

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  3. I'm sorry for the loss of your father, yet what a beautiful thing that you reconciled with him before he passed on. There's a lesson here for all of us.

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  4. I'm so sorry for your loss. But I am also so glad to know that you healed your pain with your dad before he passed. Nevertheless, it's a very tough experience to lose your parent. I just lost my mom 16 mo.s ago and my father in law ( a 2nd father to me) just 6 mo.s ago,both who I loved very much. I was with both of them at the moment of their passing- and it was an amazing experience both times- very sad, but also very moving and loving- as you have described with your family all together. I'm so sorry- be gentle with yourself,and proud of what you did to heal your relationship before you lost him. The loss will come in waves- at moments when you least expect it. God bless and comfort you and your family now.

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  5. My deepest sympathy to you and your family. Yes It is difficult losing a parent, but rest assured your dad is in a beautiful place without pain and suffering. Memory Eternal. God Bless.

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  6. I can't begin to tell you how glad I am that you came to peace with your relationship with your father before he passed. I went through something similar with my own father a while ago in terms of realizing that ultimately he was a flawed human being who did the best that he could, and that his limitations didn't mean that he didn't love his children. My Dad's still around, but he's had a few health issues of his own, and I know how I would've felt had I not come to that peace and he had passed away.

    Thinking of you today, and glad for the peace your family has found in this difficult week. Best wishes.

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