I caught myself today wanting to ask Dad a question. I find it odd that for the past 20 plus years, I have called my dad “papaw”, because that’s what the kids called him. It was just a natural progression I suppose. But the last week he was with us, I found myself calling him “Daddy” when talking to him, and “papaw” when talking to the boys or anyone else about him. I’m not sure why.
I haven’t written much about his passing. I guess I wanted to keep it to myself a bit longer. We knew he wouldn’t last long. I put the TV on the southern gospel music channel a few days before he passed away, hoping it would soothe him. The music was playing low, all the boys were home, Son4 had his girlfriend over. We were just enjoying spending time together one last time, as a family.
Most of the boys went over to the next town to eat. They needed some time away. So it was Stud, myself, Son3, Son4 and his girlfriend. I had called the hospice nurse again, she had been out earlier but I was just uneasy. Dad’s breathing was still the same as far as frequency goes, but it was very shallow.
While we waited on the nurse, Stud got out Dad’s bible and started reading Psalms 23. It was a beautiful thing. Stud was overcome with emotion, and had trouble, but he kept going, kept reading, as much for Dad as it was for us. I attempted to sing, but after one bar, I was done. I couldn’t do it. I just wanted to spend the time, loving and talking to Dad.
The nurse arrived and she took his vitals and let us know his pulse was very faint, it took her several times to be able to read it. The same went for Dad’s other vitals. He was fading very fast.
Up until this point, when I would talk to Dad, stroke his hair, he would bat one eye. Just one. The other eye had closed about 24 hrs before, and hadn’t opened. But that one eye, stayed open. It was his connection to us, to me.
I know that the reason Dad lasted the last few months, was because of me. He didn’t want to leave me. He told me one night. He kept asking me to go with him and I kept telling him it wasn’t my time yet, but I would be there soon. He would shake his head no, and that was that. One night he begged me to never forget him. Like I could ever forget him…
The Wednesday night before he passed, Dad was up all night long. He wouldn’t lay down, he couldn’t sit still, he was up, down, up down, sitting on the side of his bed, all night long. He kept saying he had to go, he had to leave. He had to get home. At one point, I was standing beside him, talking to him, and he said he had to go. I told him we couldn’t go anywhere, it was the middle of the night, but to get some rest and we would go the next morning. He bowed his head, his shoulders slumped over, in defeat. After that he lay down in bed, and never got up again.
The next day when the nurses gave him his bath, was the last he was cognizant. Almost immediately after his bath, he started jerking, extremities were having spasms. It wasn’t a seizure, but spasms that were scary to watch. That was the beginning of the end. He slowly faded away over the next two days.
I think that night, sitting on the side of the bed, he gave up. He finally decided he had to go without me. Part of me wants to feel guilty. But he majority knows, he was ready. He was so tired. So lonely from missing Mom. If he had known what his mind had become, he would have been miserable. He wouldn’t have wanted to live that way.
In reality, it may have taken his body 13 months to leave, but his mind left when Mom died. Their love was real. Their love was true. Their love was strong. She was his lifeline, his reason to live, his reason to get up every morning. When she was gone, his brain went in to self protect mode and switched off the pain, and took him to a time where he didn’t know mom.
I am truly blessed to have been by both my parent’s bedside as they took their final breath. Dad’s was so peaceful, his breathes just kept getting more shallow until they just didn’t come anymore. He didn’t moan, groan, or even sigh. He just went.
It was beautiful.