On the evening of April 3, 2012, my telephone rang. The Caller Identification showed that it was mother calling. My mother almost never calls that late. Immediately, I knew something was wrong with my father.
When I answered the phone, she was almost in tears and told me that my father had been admitted to the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Seattle, Washington. She told me that his entire body was swollen with edema and that he was very weak, but able to walk into the hospital on his own accord, albeit with my mothers help.
The following morning his condition had not improved at all. In fact, he was weaker and could not sit without assistance. As to be expected at a time like this, my car wasn’t working, so plans were made to see him on the third day.
At the ending of my visitation, I told my father that I would see him tomorrow or the following day. The next evening, my mother called from the hospital and said that my father would like my brother and I to come by immediately to say goodbye. I was there within forty-five minutes.
My father was leaking interstitial fluid from his entire body from the edema. He apologized for something that had happened recently. I told him that I didn’t care about that, and all I wanted was my father. When this visitation was over, I told my mother as we walked to the car that we would never see him again, or at the very least, that he would never get out of his hospital bed. My feelings were held in check as mourning is inappropriate until we had experienced our almost inevitable loss. However, I swallowed several huge lumps down my throat.
From that day forward, I spent every possible moment with my father, which meant being at the hospital on a daily basis.
Several days later a panel of eight or nine doctors wanted to meet with us (always a bad sign in my experience). They discussed his medical conditions (heart failure with enlargement of the right ventricle and respiratory failure with hypoxia. My father had contracted tuberculosis in Korea and only had one lung as a result. At this point one of the doctors told us that he was suffering a terminal condition and that he would pass away within the next few days.
My mother and I decided to bring him home to die, according to his wishes. His living will stated that if his heart stopped, he wanted no intervention.On April 24, 2012, my wife, mother and myself had his room turned into a long-term care facility. On the moring of April, 25, 2012, any necessary medical equipment was delivered. My father arrived home by ambulance within an hour of our completed setup.
At this point he was dependent on BPAP (bilevel positive airway pressure) to maintain oxygen saturation and assist him to breathe.
Providence Hospice was the managing nursing agency for consultations with me and to help with bath care, They also had a team of respiratory therapists to assist us with other problems.
My father was very happy to be home where he could rest and spend his final days with his family. He fought harder that I have seen a human fight during the last three months of his life. There were high points where one would wonder if he was going to recover and low points where I was afraid death was imminent.
During his second day home I led him through Holy Communion with two of his friends.
On May 15, 2012, we had an awesome day together. He was even able to sit in his recliner (with help) and watch a baseball game with my brother and I. Baseball was my dad’s favorite sport. Later on, he was able to watch most of the 2012 All-Star Game with me.
In late June and early July, things became very bad. He didn’t want to live in a bed unable to raise his head or arms. On three occasions he asked me to help him die with morphine. I cried and told him that God considers that murder and that I could not help him that way.
As things began to get worse, I began to make the necessary final arrangements. I arranged a funeral home (Marlatt Funeral Home) and I also called a carpenter at Evergreen Caskets and had a handmade solid cedar casket manufactured. Both organizations did an outstanding job, I would recommend their services to anyone.
During the early afternoon of July 16, 2012, a prayer team from Mark Driscoll‘s Mars Hill Church came to the house at my request to annoint my dad’s head with oil. We all then prayed for his suffering to end (either through complete healing or death, according to God’s will).
At 5’45 PM, my father took his last breath as I was holding his head and praying for him. I called the authorities ten minutes after I could no longer find any signs of life to ensure he was gone as he had requested. He explicitly asked that he not be revived if his heart ceased to function. I honored that request and will always feel good that I was present to do so.
There are pictures and stories of my father while he was sick that will never be shared. Enjoy this tale because I will release no more. The last several months have been bad images and memories, I care to remember who my father was before he was ill. When I was a child he was Superman, and through the years that never changed.
I still feel somewhat numb and dead inside, although things are improving. My doctor says this is normal and is the body’s way to provide emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once from the pain of the loss. This phase of grief is expected to last weeks. I am told that as the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, I am told that it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs. Some people bargain with God when grieving, I didn’t go through that personally, but I sure begged for a few more years with my father (total selfishness). Anger is also a part of the grieving process. This is already very apparent to me in several situations with people who didn’t do something I feel they should have and with the doctor’s who said he was too weak for diuretics to combat the edema. Diuretics and steroids were employed only during his last few days in the hospital, my anger towards the doctors that made this decision is irrevocable. With better care I feel my father may still be here. The incompetence of certain physicians lead directly to my father’s death. Depression is an expected condition that my doctor tells me I will face within the next month or two, she said this is inevitable (and I thought I was depressed). I am told the final phase of the grieving process is acceptance. I don’t see how I can accept this, but obviously I have absolutely no choice.
There are lessons in life to be learned from all of our trials and tribulations. I am sure that I have only processed and came to grips with a few of them at this point. God is in complete control of everything, I had to learn that there was little I could do to help my father. We were given a magnificent gift that many people never get. We were able to spend three months together and finish any incomplete conversations. Many people receive a phone call or a public safety official at the door, God gave us the gift to prepare for this. Where would I be if this had occurred suddenly and unexpectedly? Only God knows. They say that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and I suppose that this is true.
- But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 KJV)
My father was my fishing partner, my best friend, my hunting partner, etc. He was my everything. He is totally irreplaceable, and until I see him again I will never forget him and will always miss him. I don’t see a way out of this at this time, but there have been plenty of times that I have been fishing and couldn’t see the United States. Somehow, we always made it back to land. Hopefully my experience will give people hope to face the impossible or that which they fear. May God Bless you all. Shalom!
I could not get through this period in my life without Saint John, who wrote, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
(Revelation 21:1-4 ESV)