When my Dad was dying I wasn’t ready to let him go. He was 86 and tired, but naturally and perhaps a little selfishly, I wasn’t ready to relinquish him to the great unknown. He was my Dad after all, my one and only Dad, and I loved him and still do.
It was of little consequence to me that he’d lived a full life and was ready. I just wanted him to stay a little longer, for more conversations, more classic Dad one-liners, more hugs and more gastronomic adventures together.
What I found particularly difficult was the medical team couldn’t tell us what was wrong. They did every scan known to man and couldn’t find anything amiss. In my head he had to die of something; there had to be a reason didn’t there?!
A nurse made the comment that sometimes when they start to withdraw, as Dad had started to do, they are just ready to go. At the time I thought her heartless and cruel, now I realise she was more familiar with the ways of death than I was.
Looking back, I’m not sure I could or would do anything differently. Mine was a daughter’s grief and I had as much right to that as my Dad had to leave. What I was unprepared for, as the one staying and one of those who loved him, was having to find the resources within me when I was already falling apart, to let him go.
Allowing him to go was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. A couple of days before he died, having finally accepted that there was no coming back, my Mother, our Minister and I stood by his bedside, said a prayer and told him it was okay with us that he went. He opened his lovely blue/grey eyes for the last time and looked at us. I’m not sure if he saw us or not, but I know that he heard our permission. For after that he made the long, slow journey to leaving us for good.
During that last harrowing night when his breathing was laboured, my Mother and I sat and played cards. We figured there were probably lots of people that wouldn’t have approved, but we needed the distraction and we knew that Dad would have appreciated and maybe even have joined in, had he been able.
We were with him when he went. In typical Dad fashion there was no great fanfare, he just stopped breathing, sensing, I think, that I was about to gather my things and go home for a break. Being there for the last few precious hours was a harrowing experience in itself, but not one I would have missed.
We didn’t touch him much or hold his hand – he wasn’t a touchy person in life – and I just had that sense that he needed to be left to do what he needed to do, knowing we were near by.
My Mother and I now have a pact. When she is ready to go I will allow her to go and, what’s more, support her in whatever way I can. I can’t imagine it’s going to be any easier, but I know from my journey with Dad that this is one of the most important things I can do for those I love. In the meantime we just love all the time we have together.
What’s your experience been? What wisdom did it give you?