The last couple of weeks have been absolutely the worst weeks of my life. So much has happened I can’t possibly cover it all, so I won’t even try. But the worst moment of the last two weeks, beyond a doubt, came at 4:42PM on December 30th: my wonderful, incredible daddy earned his wings and went to be with the Lord.
The day after Christmas started just like any other day for our family. My dad was up getting ready to go to dialysis at 6:30 that morning, packing his billfold and cell phone in his coat pockets as he sang crazy songs and joked around with my sister. We had just had a wonderful holiday as a family, and Dad was in a great mood. On Christmas Eve, I had been sick while the rest of our family celebrated the holiday, so I had come over on Christmas Day to open my gifts and eat the meal my mom had prepared for the family. He was having a little trouble breathing that morning, and had been up a lot the night before doing breathing treatments to treat what he and my sister thought was a COPD flare-up. However, he never told my sister or me that he felt bad enough to see a doctor or go to the hospital, and he was in good spirits otherwise. By 9:45 AM on Tuesday, 12/26, all that had changed drastically.
I was at work when I got a call from a nurse at dad’s dialysis facility. She told me he was unresponsive and that he had been rushed to a nearby hospital. Immediately, I dropped what I was doing and texted my boss to let her know I had to leave. I went to pick up my sister and we rushed to get to the hospital. When we arrived, they explained that Dad was in the middle of a dialysis treatment when he started complaining about shortness of breath. His nurse called an ambulance to take him to the hospital to have him checked for pneumonia, since he has battled it over and over since receiving his COPD diagnosis. While the ambulance was on the way, she looked back at Dad and saw that his lips were turning blue; he had flatlined. The nurse performed CPR until the EMT’s arrived, and they were able to get Dad’s heart started again. On the way to the hospital, Dad flatlined again. After getting to the hospital, the doctors and nurses worked frantically to save him. They were able to get his heart started again, and put in a temporary pacemaker to help sustain him until they could get him transferred to a larger hospital. Once at the larger hospital, we were told that Dad’s prognosis was not good, and we shouldn’t get our hopes up about him waking up. Dad had gone about 43 minutes with little to no oxygen to his brain. Even though his heart and other organs were working well again by that point, his brain was badly damaged.
The next few days were a whirlwind. In addition to family and friends coming to visit, I was trying to get my kids home from Colorado to come see their Pawpaw before he passed. It was a fight with my ex to get them here, and it got ugly. However, due to the help of some incredible friends and family, we were able to get the girls home by Friday night; Dad passed Saturday afternoon. I truly believe he was waiting to hear my kids’ voices before he left us.
I feel numb. Friends who have lost a parent tell me this is normal; my body is in auto-pilot mode. Yesterday was Dad’s funeral, and now that we have gotten past the visitation and funeral, it’s time for my sister and me to go through Dad’s things and get his affairs in order by closing his accounts, etc. I feel like as long as I have things to do and keep me busy, I’ll be ok… I’ve barely been able to cry just yet, but I know it’s coming, and probably when I least expect it.
I wrote this last Wednesday as my dad lay dying in the hospital:
“Someday when the pages of my life end, I know that you will be one of its most beautiful chapters.”
As I prepare to say goodbye to my dad, I keep remembering all these small moments and memories when he did things to make me laugh. I remember looking up before batting at a softball game to see him wink and give me a little nod to encourage me, his ornery little snicker when he scored higher than me in Yahtzee, watching him beat on the steering wheel of the car when a good song would come on the radio, seeing him holding his “punkins” on his lap, getting the kids’ necks…. I could name a million more little moments like that.
It’s harder than I ever dreamed possible to see him like this: unresponsive, seizing when we touch him, with machines keeping him alive. It hurts my heart to see this man, who just two nights ago was watching his grandchildren open their Christmas presents and joking with me about how big a slice of pumpkin pie he needed for dessert, laying there so lifeless. The only comforts I have right now are knowing that soon he won’t have to struggle to breathe anymore, and he will be able to run and play ball with his brother, and give his momma and daddy a hug again. I also take comfort in the knowledge that this tired, worn out body is not my daddy; he lives on that bleacher in the softball games and Yahtzee tournaments in my memories.
I have always been a Daddy’s girl, and even though he’s gone now, that will never change. I know everyone thinks their dad is the best dad, but mine really was. When my parents divorced, he played the role of both Dad and Mom, and worked hard to take care of my sister and me. He did have help, but to everyone who knew him, he was a superhero who was doing it all. Everyone who knew him loved and respected him for his kindness, generosity, and love of the Lord. There aren’t many men in this world like my dad, and we have lost a great one. As I told a lot of people the night of his visitation, if I can live my life and leave behind a legacy even half as wonderful as Dad’s, I’ll be doing good.
My sister and I have been so blessed by the outpouring of love and support from our family, friends, and community. It’s so overwhelming to see, but also beautiful. I know I’ll never be able to repay everyone for their generosity, but I am praying God will bless these people tenfold for what they’ve done for us. Our family and friends have been here for us every step of the way, and we are beyond grateful for them and everyone else who has been here for us.
I am going to be dealing with some crazy stuff in the coming weeks. Life is going to be hard, and I can only pray that 2018 is a better year for me than 2017. At least I know that there will be no more hospital stays, no more COPD attacks, or heart problems for my daddy. May my sweet, wonderful, amazing dad rest in peace.