In the year after my dad died, as part of my grieving, I wrote this book. I’ve waited to make it public for many reasons. But now, more than 11 years later, I want to share it. My dad was a good man. I want you to know about him and his influence. I hope you enjoy.
Morning came, my mom came back and then my dad woke up. He was upset. “It didn’t work. It didn’t work. I can’t even do this right.” We couldn’t get him to tell us what was bugging him. “It’s the chemicals. It’s the chemicals.” We pieced it together and realized that he wanted to die, was trying to die and yet he couldn’t. “What are they doing to me?” He was upset that he was still alive. That was so unlike my dad and yet completely understandable too. In another clear moment he told us, “No more chemicals. No more.” We got his doctor and he was able to tell her too. He wanted to go.
The signs of improvement were actually fake. The reason his blood count was up was because of the dialysis. If it weren’t for all the stuff they were doing, he would be dead. It became obvious that the only way for him to live was to be on machines, something he would never want. Even if he did recover from this colon stuff, he still had cancer! There was no hope and he knew it, somehow through the fog of his mind he put it together. “It’s OK. It’s all right. No more chemicals,” he continued to repeat.
My mom, sister and I had a conference in the hallway and decided it was time to take him off the machines. A nurse came to do the day’s dialysis and wanted to get in the room. My mom told her no, we need to talk to his doctor. “Well I need to start the dialysis now, I can’t wait for that.” My mom tried explaining that we thought we would take him off the machines. The nurse’s job was to do dialysis, she knew nothing of the situation and she continued to press that she had to start this. Don’t they understand? My dad is dying.
We had the regular nurse call the doctor who would be there as soon as she could, which took forever. I kid you not. It was ridiculous. We all said good-bye to my dad, again. We loved him; he loved us. It’s OK. It’s all right. No more chemicals.
Eventually the doctor came and we told her our decision, she started crying. My dad had made quite the impression on the staff. My dad had hope and he was infinitely frustrated by the condition and the hospital, but he remained strong in his testimony. It was a great thing to see. His church published a pamphlet about dying from cancer that he wrote. He handed it out to people there. They even asked for more copies for their chaplain service to use.
The decision was made, the machines were pulled and he slipped into a coma almost immediately. My wife had been waiting for us and after the decision was made I walked into the lobby of the hospital to go to the car where my wife was. She had just come in the building with my two-year old son, Jacob. Jacob gave me a big smile and ran up to me and took my hand. My tears came immediately. I held his hand all the way to my mom‘s house.
When we got there, my dad’s parents were sitting in the living room. I walked over to my grandpa, sat next to him, put my arm around him and told him his son wasn’t going to make it. You could feel the pain in their cry. I took a nap.
I woke up, ate something and went back to the hospital with the rest of the family, which had now grown to my wife and I, my sister and her husband (some friends from their church were babysitting all 6 of our kids), my mom, her mom, my dad’s folks and my mom’s brother, his wife and one daughter.
They had moved my dad into another ward of the hospital with bigger rooms and more privacy so he could drift off in peace. The family gathered in various spots, in a lounge, in the room by the elevators and in my dad’s room. You could go to any of the rooms and find a different assortment of relatives and conversation. My dad would have loved to have been there.
My cousin, Lindy, who was 12 or so, I didn’t know really, I don’t pay too much attention to cousin details, was the youngest person there. She was doing well. I tried to keep her spirits up by joking with her, offering her Kleenex every 25 seconds or so. The family began to drift off toward home as the hours got later. The coma could last for several days before he went. I kept praying for him to go. Just take him Lord, just take him.
My mom, sister, my wife and I were still there in his room. We each had a chair to sit in with pillows to wait it out. At one point I lost it a bit and began talking in a rather loud voice, just getting things off my chest. How dumb it all was. Why he wasn’t going. What was he waiting for? I’m here praying an effectual fervent prayer, what’s the problem? Just go.
Not sure the women with me fully understood what I was saying, not sure I did either. But once I did that, there was a weight lifted. I felt better. I could be helpful now. There was so much tension in the day and in the experience, it had to be released for me to cope with the rest. I felt better. I went into the lounge and fell asleep on a foldout bed.
At some point my wife woke me up. “I think it’s going to happen soon.” I got up, walked into his room with my mom, sister and wife. We stood around his bed. The only sound was the irritating pump pumping gunk out of his lungs. It made a mechanical wheezing noise as it sucked out the junk. His breathing was getting shallow. His color was off. His hands were cold.
Then it was over. He left us and that’s when we needed him most. He would have loved to have been there.