Life seems to be moving back at its usual breakneck pace lately, keeping me busy with lots of web work and clients to take my mind off losing Dad. And yet the loss is never far from the surface. I cried all the way home from Christiansburg yesterday, just couldn’t stop the tears. And I found myself wondering WHY I was crying. Was I crying because Dad is gone? The truth is that he was gone from us for most of this year, lost in the nether world of dementia and delusion for much of it. Grieving for the Dad I used to know, with that great sense of humor and his sharp interest in current events and politics? Maybe, but that part of him was gone before the dementia, so it’s been more like two years since that Dad was really here.
I don’t miss sitting in a miserable chair in the hospital night after night trying to sleep while I kept an ear out for any sign that Dad needed something. Usually he slept so restlessly, sometimes arms flailing like he was running for his life, fear etched on his face. The nightmares he dealt with were awful things, and most of the time he couldn’t quite wake up from them. I would hear him grunt or move in the bed and wake up almost instantly to see what he needed. Sometimes he just needed a drink of water or a back rub, or just a hand to hold while he drifted back to sleep. I would take my laptop and work while he slept, playing hymns he liked softly in the background. That seemed to help a lot when he was just restless. But when he was really in pain, the music aggravated him. I don’t miss having to bend down to figure out what he was saying because his voice was so weak, and trying to translate for the nurses so I could convey what he wanted or needed. I don’t think I ever had a time where I felt irritated over going to sit with him. I was so glad to be useful doing something to help, even if all it meant was having him feel better to have someone with him. I think he was afraid he would have a heart attack in the night and nobody would be there to help him. Being there mattered, and I will forever be glad I made those drives in the night to be with him. But I won’t miss all the trips to doctors and hospitals and labs for this test and that surgery and that procedure. I don’t miss the grimace on his face when the “vampires” came to draw blood. His arms had become so sensitive over the last year, and the needles really hurt, the repeated attempts to find a useful vein leaving marks on his arms for days. I hated to hear him groan when someone moved his leg.
I think more than anything else, I am grieving over the way he died, and I am angry that the blunders by that miserable excuse for a hospice that caused him more pain and suffering when they were supposed to help it…and who caused all of us to suffer along with him. It’s the flashes of the sights and sounds of that last six days that keep triggering tears and the ache in my chest. The things that should have been done, the confusion and chaos we went through wondering what to do when we were supposed to have a group of experienced people to help us with it. Those are the scenes that torment me and keep me from sleeping at night.
Still, it’s my nature to process things and find the light in the darkness. What good can come out of this terrible ordeal with my dad? How can his story – and ours – be a blessing to someone else? Can we turn our tragedy into something meaningful for others?