June 4, 2009
“Wear lots of black”
That was my guidance. I wore top dark blue/black pants, black onyx sandals. I dressed my boy in his black bug shirt, navy sweat pants.
It was an ordinary day.
At 1330 I got the call from my brother in law—your dad’s not doing so good the nurse is here doing everything to help him.
I completed my mandatory application for the hospital I now work at live online at the hospital with the help of the med staff clerk. I explained the nature of the call, and asked her to please fax the last packet to my other new job place, the surgery center I was scheduled to start working at tomorrow, and crying, drove home to my parent's house.
He had a death rattle, was unresponsive and had two fentanyl patches on. He was mouth breathing with nasal cannula on. This was acute respiratory distress, the kind I get woken up for in the middle of the night to put the life-saving endotracheal tube in when patients are crumping at the hospital. I got angry—“Show me the DNR. Show me in writing! Why aren’t you doing anything? I’m a fucking ANESTHESIOLOGIST!’
He wanted it that way, I was told. At 0800 my sister had called. Mom was folding clothes. He got up to answer the phone and started vomiting projectile blood.
He’d had trouble when he answered the phone this weekend when I’d called. He couldn’t even get up to pee or brush his teeth. Last visit he’d refused to wear oxygen unless his fingers were blue. (I had been always nagging him to wear his oxygen when I was anywhere near him)
When I first came, his lips were blue. Hands and feet were cold. Pulse was thready and rapid.
They atropined him and dilauded him—FUCKING NURSE OF DEATH! She was giving him a drug overdose before my very eyes and I couldn't believe that she was getting away with it!
I spoke in his ear-Dad-it’s me! I’m here for you. You can talk to me here and on The Other Side. I’m here for you.
He startled and opened his eyes and looked off at the wall, moving his head, blinking, and scanning from left to right.
On the drive home to their house I’d felt his spirit:
Hey! I can breathe! This is cool! But after my whisper he went back into his body. At three I got my kid from school so he could be with the family as dad passed. Mom okayed it that my son could come say goodbye to his grandfather.
From school we went to Carl’s Jr to buy food for the family. The child got mad since the food took too long! We had to go back in from the drive through to get it. He cried and cried, “I want my grandpa!” when I said, “Today is a special day! Jesus says it’s time for Grandpa to go to Heaven.” my four-year old son said, “I hurt, mama!” I said I did too.
We came back. I liked sitting up by Dad's head. I helped position him so he didn’t fall off the bed. He was leaning almost off the edge and the nurse didn't bother to do anything about it. It looked terribly uncomfortable.
After some time, I took my boy to the playground at the elementary school around the block. (our neighbor across the street, a family friend) found us. She offered to watch the kid to give me some time with Dad in his final moments. After much soul-searching, and before he was dead, I said goodbyes because my first day of work is tomorrow, at the Other Place Surgery Center, and I had to show up.
When B. the chaplain had anointed him I saw this (tall angels and whiter-than-white pearly gates not unlike Mormon temples in architecture. Plus there were two silent, tall, tough angels with spears and giant feathered wings, one on each side of the gate. They did not talk, or even make me feel like I could speak with them.)
When I was driving to the house the first time, Dad's spirit had said, “I don’t have much time.”
During my goodbye I thanked him for everything, for his toenails that fell off from teaching basketball to the students that always landed on his toes. I promised I’d be nice to my son, as he had often asked of me. I kissed Dad—his head, his cheeks, his feet. I said “I don’t want to say goodbye to you, we’d like to keep you here forever, but when you’re ready to go it’s okay.”
I went across the street to get my boy, since I needed to get ready for work the next day. Something caught me; on second thought I stopped and told Mom “You need to tell him it’s okay to go.” before I walked out the door. When I got to the neighbors house across the street, I smiled—‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” was playing on the player piano at the neighbor's. (her name) had been watching (my son's name). After seeing that, I decided against leaving to go to my home, kept the kid at the neighbors, and went back in to the house where Dad was almost gone.
Dad had lost his pulse a while ago, but he still had a heartbeat. (my ear to his chest). Then he was apneic. I heard his heart and it kept going. It was the last to go. I saw this (Dad with Blessed Mother) and smiled. He was okay.
He also told me Lakers would win the Championship.
I took the useless nasal cannulas off. I also put something under his chin so it would have his mouth stay closed. My sister really lost it after he died. Mom was strong. She knew how sick he was. My other sister and her dog were steady. My brother-in-law didn’t interact with Dad. He just comforted his wife. It was odd.
Dad: I love you. Carla, this is your Father. I want you to understand what I said to you the other day. About the world. And life. Whatever that there is or was or could have been, it doesn’t matter. Everything there is is like a figment. It can change. Like Hollywood. I want you to understand the very gift I gave you, the power of psychocybernetics is in you. It is of God and holy. Ask for Him to bless it. Ask for it yourself.
Thank you for making time for me. I am sorry about your work. I had to pick the timing very carefully. It didn’t matter, why or what or who. I wanted my girls there.
And your boy. I’m glad you brought him.
Are you all right with me dying, and death?
C: I didn’t get to say goodbye, the kind where I heard a goodbye from you.
Dad: That is what I thought. You are pretty. I am like a ‘good neighbor in the sky.’ I will come back from time to time, every now and then. Not everyday like Nannu. I will be near to you, comforting and watching you. My princess. I have loved you since you were a little girl. I still love you. That love will not die. It is the kind that goes on forever. I am with you. It’s not goodbye.
From Dad for my youngest sister: ‘you are beautiful and blessed. Blessed since the day you were born. I named you. Never forget this. All by myself I named you (her full name).
Tell her that I love her dearly.'
Dear Old Dad
Thy father in Heaven but not THE Father in Heaven. I am funny yet.
(editors note; I was at the surgery center at seven o'clock the next day, after having watched my father die a respiratory death, the most painful kind for an anesthesiologist to watch. I couldn't let on what had happened, for it was my first day, and I wanted to make a good impression. Crying anesthesiologists don't inspire a lot of confidence. I spent that day at the anesthesia machine, choking back tears, and giving thanks for the 'normalcy' of the O.R. to pass the time in my grieving. I was the only white girl in that whole surgery center, sort of an oddity, but somehow everyone's kindness made it work out all in all. On Wednesday morning I told the Chief my father's funeral was on Thursday, and I was kindly allowed the time off so I could go.)