Today’s Assignment for #Writing101: Write a post inspired by a real-world conversation. For a twist, include foreshadowing.
Something made me stay a little longer that day. I wasn’t in my usual hurried, harried mode on my weekly visit to the nursing home. This visit was surprisingly more enjoyable than the “chore” it sometimes had sadly become of late.
Time seemed to fly as Pap (my father-in-law) and I talked and laughed and reminisced. Marty even called to see where I was since I was “taking so long.” But Pap was so excited to share what a wonderful day he had and tell me about his very special visitor. Nancy, his “favorite” niece from Illinois, had surprised him that day with a visit. They went for a walk – him in his scooter with the orange safety flag, wearing his favorite chicken hat Colleen had bought him with his beautiful niece by his side. He proudly introduced her to every person he knew that worked, visited or lived within scooter driving distance of his room, and he begged to have a picture taken to commemorate the day. He could barely contain his joy and excitement telling me about the fun they had, the laughs they shared, and the joy she had brought to his day.
“It was the best day,” he said.
Pap had been sick for quite a while. He had more than his fair share of “close encounters” throughout the 33 years I had known him (and even before that). Yet somehow he managed to outlive his beloved wife of 52 years, and even more heartbreaking, his only daughter.
Lately, Pap was in and out of the hospital more times than we could count. Moves between assisted living and skilled nursing were becoming the norm. Pap was getting tired. He said he was ready to go. But when breathing got labored due to his CHF and other problems arose from his minimally functioning kidney, he panicked. He just wanted to “stick around” a few months longer for the upcoming wedding of his grandson, Jake and his favorite girl, Colleen.
It was time to have “the talk.”
In life, there are a few very important “talks.” There’s the “birds and the bees,” continuing education decisions, marriage, children, buying a home.
Then there’s the BIGGIE: Death.
The “How do you want to spend your end-of-life journey?” talk.
Now I’m in the hospice business, so I am extremely comfortable talking about these important decisions and discussions. Until it’s MY family…
I struggled. Marty anguished. We called in expert assistance.
We thought we were getting through, then Pap would talk about dialysis and kidney transplants.
We were obviously not being very effective.
And Pap kept bouncing around from hospital to skilled nursing to assisted and round and round.
This particular day I visited, he was in skilled nursing after a recent episode in the hospital. I left feeling good. Pap must have said it a handful of times: “It was the best day.”
Fast forward four short hours. The phone rang. Pap had experienced a “turn,” and he wanted to go to the hospital. He was struggling to breathe.
Marty asked the nursing staff to please not send him. “Please keep him there. Keep him comfortable. Let him know we will be there in 15 minutes.”
When we arrived, Pap’s favorite aide was on one side of his bed, holding his hand, stroking his cheek. Another aide stood empathetically behind her. Still. Silent.
Our eyes met, and theirs began to glisten.
“He’s comfortable.” “He’s relaxed now.”
They left us to have some private time with Pap.
Marty rubbed his once larger than life, but now frail and thin Father’s arm. He garnered all the poise and grace and dignity a 53-year old, 6 foot, 3 inch tall working man’s man could muster, and whispered, “I love you, Dad.”
“You have been a wonderful father, a devoted husband, a loving grandfather,” he said.
“It’s okay to let go.”
“Mom and Maureen are waiting for you.”
“We will miss you, but it’s ok.”
Pap took his last breath. Marty had one hand. I had the other.
“It was the best day.”