My dad finally passed away early this morning, which, of course, causes that same “grielief” we felt when Mom’s time was up a mere six months ago.
His decline was so agonizingly slow, marked by such infinitesimal notches downward. Every time we thought he was making the step that would mark a turn to The End, he would level out, his body continuing to chug along. Time and again, even as his corporeal self withered and the person we suspected was still inside slowly disappeared, that body kept going.
Seven months ago, Tim and I made plans for a long, tropical vacation in early February. Because I was away when Mom passed (my sister left to manage in the immediate aftermath), she and I discussed this vacation after that experience, agreeing that there was No Way He Would Still Be Around By Then.
As the months slowly passed and it seemed that the ground itself might have to rise up to swallow what was left of him before he finally took his leave, I began saying, only slightly jokingly, that it would probably happen while Tim and I were even farther away. We joked about it. But, amazing, indescribably awesome sister that she is, she told me that we had her blessing to stay for the entire trip if it were to happen on her watch.
Lo and behold, here we are. She kept me apprised as he took what marked his final turn earlier this week, and through his exhausting descent over the past few days.
She and her husband are living angels, taking turns being with him, administering his comfort meds every other hour, 24 hours a day; singing to him, stroking his hair or holding his hand. Letting him know he was so loved; what an incredible father he was to two adopted daughters whose lives were so shaped by his quiet guidance and support.
As grueling as this past four years has been, I don’t think I’m speaking just from the emotion of this moment when I say it has also been the most meaningful four years of my life. It has brought my sister and me, who were fairly close before, so much closer. It has made me appreciate my life in ways I might never have, had I not been yanked out of my “normal” and tossed around in the swirling currents of parental dementia.
At a moment when I’m vacillating between grief and relief, between surprising upwellings of tears and smiling at the kindness of friends and family, the umbrella over all of it is my gratitude: to my dad for a list of things that will require a separate writing session, to my sister and her husband, whom I feel with every breath I’m drawing today, and to the Universe itself for putting us through this transformative disease.
Stay tuned – there will be more to come.