It’s been a long and traumatic couple of weeks. I never in a million years believed that my dad, my strong, fighter of a dad, would go to be with Jesus the way he did. I always thought that his heart would probably stop in the middle of the night and the suffering and fighting he has been doing all these years would just be over. But, in true dad form, he fought till the bitter end.
A couple of weeks ago dad was hospitalized with a bowel obstruction. He was in such intense pain and so sick. He had a tube down his nose into his stomach to drain all the poisen that was building up making him ill. So, the doctor went in and repaired the obstruction and really that’s when the trouble began. He was sent home from the hospital, probably much too early since he couldn’t urinate, but home he went. Two days later he ended up back in the hospital, his bladder twice as full as a normal bladder should be, filling up with fluid around his lungs, and dilerious from all the retention of that fluid. Once a cath was inserted and his bladder began to empty his extremem discomfort began to ease. He was told his prostate was enlarged and that his congestive heart failure and COPD was getting worse.
Then, last wednesday dad got to a point where breathing bacame almost impossible for him. I won’t forget the sight of him leaning over the side of the hospital bed, gasping for breath, begging for air, for a fan to be blown at him, for anything to make him more comfortable. He was finally moved to ICU and put on a machine called a Bi pap machine. It is the last step before a ventilator. It basically forces air into his lungs with out the invasive nature of a vent. Gradually his breathing eased, he was recieving morphine, lasiks, antibitotics and had a larger cath since blood had begun spilling out of his bladder.
No one seemed to know where the blood was coming from. He hadn’t been restarted on blood thiners after his surgery so clots were forming from the blood in the bladder, and having to be irrigated from his bladder. It was an excruciatingly painful procedure for him each time they irrigated. He would look up with these child like eyes that seemed to beg “please make it stop”. But, dad was not ready to be done fighting. Each time the doctors gave us an indication that “this was the end” he would rally. We would leave his room as they were performing yet another procedure, thinking that he would be on that downward slope, only to go back to his room to find him sitting up, eating with gusto and being his ornary self again. And, each and every time us kids would stand in wonder thinking how amazing God’s grace is and what an extraordinary man our father is.
Finally, however, his blood pressure started to plummet, and his kidneys began to shut down. there weren’t a lot of options left. We had a talk with hospice and got our options. Dad was talked to, and he decided he wanted to take it one day at a time and continue to fight. That was tuesday. Wednesday morning his kidney levels had gotten to the “we’ve fought as hard as we can and we can’t do it anymore” point. The congestive heart failure had depleted all dad’s strength, and fighting for every breath was taking a toll beyond what he could handle anymore. So, that morning dad told the doctors, with my brother and I by his side, to turn off his difibrilator and move him to a hospice facility. All he wanted was to be knocked out to the point where he no longer knew what was going on. He was tired of gasping for air, all his fight was gone. At 4 PM on Wednesday he was transported to the hospice facility.
It took a while for them to get his meds under control and to the point where he no longer was struggling for breath. And in true dad form he didn’t stop giving orders and telling everyone what to do. At one point, while having an extraordinarily hard time breathing, he asked for a peice of paper and a pain…motioned is actually what he did since he really didn’t have breath to get out many words. We all sat there with baited breath expecting some profound last words to come from this brilliant man. He took the pen in his shaking hand and started to try to write. What he wrote well, it was not quite as profound as we expected. He said, “I’m ready to go. Bring on the morphine”. Then he motioned and gasping for each breath said “Two of you sit me up, two of you get me the drugs. Bring on the juice. knock me out.” And, like when mom died, our family shared laughter along with the impending death of our dad.
We got our chance to say our goodbyes. I will never forget walking to his bedside, leaning into his ear and whispering “I love you dad. He quietly whispered “I love you too. I will say hi to momma for you.” I immediately had a picture in my mind of mom and dad reuinting in heaven, and my grandma coming up to tell my dad that before the celebration could begin she had a few little chores she needed done around the Mansion that was prepared especially for him”. And then grandpa would come up to him, his full 6 foot 3 stature walking like regal royalty, extend his hand to dad, and pull dad too him, grasp him and say “welcome to heaven Don. Jesus has been getting everything ready and we have been anxiously waiting for you to come for our amazing family reunion feast”. My grandpa was my dad’s hero. I can imagine the light in my dad’s eyes when he was again reunited with all those he loved. His face would have gone from looking tortured, childlike, begging for relief from his suffering, to overwhelming joy and calm. He told us all in that moment that he knew where he was going and he was ready to go.
Dad’s earthly journey came to an end peacefully at 3 AM on thursday morning. He just calmly took his last breath and surrendered himself to the warmth and comfort of the arms of Jesus.
My dad was a man unlike any other. He fought for each and every day of his life. 19 heartattacks, 4 difibrilator/pace maker combo’s, many stents inserted into his heart, multiple surgeries yet he never ever gave up almost to the very end. I will never know if he was still trying to hold on for us kids, for the grandkids and great grandkids, or if he felt he still had more living he needed to do. But whatever it was, he fought, with gusto, for each day, each breath, for every ounce of life he lived. He died like he lived…with strength, with a strong will and spirit and surrounded by of of us who loved him ferociously and whom he loved back with just as much passion and ferocity!
If you are someone who knew my dad and has any memories to share with us about him that could be added into the funeral please email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The more the better!!!
I will miss you dad! I know you are with Jesus, with mom and celebrating a life that will never be forgotten!