We are coping as best we can with this horrible process of watching someone we love die slowly day by day. But then we realize we have been watching this process day by day for several years, in and out of hospitals, surgeries. The difference is that we were focused on helping him get better, to heal and recover. How do we focus on helping him die? Our focus has always been life.
I decided yesterday to go to the church where I play the piano on Sunday mornings, to have something that bore some semblance of the normal life I was living just a week ago. I figured I could get through an hour without blubbering, and not leave that sweet congregation without music. I was fine as long as all I did was play the piano. But as soon as someone spoke to me or touched me (and that wonderful church family always does both) the waterworks would start. Several of them told me they had been through this with their loved ones, they knew exactly how hard this was. Finally when the service was over I got the tears stopped. But I needed to make a stop at the grocery store for some needed supplies at home before going to Mom’s. A quick trip through Food Lion shouldn’t distress me.
I hurried through the store, picking up what I needed, and made my way to the checkout line. I was doing fine at holding it together until the cashier said, “How are you today?” Then the tears started. I’m sure she was surprised that anyone would cry coming through line. I began fumbling through my purse in search of my debit card to pay the total, all the while explaining as briefly as possible that my father was dying and I was just a basket case right now. Frantically I rummaged, it was hard to see through all the tears. But the card was nowhere to be found.
“I remember using it at the gas station two nights earlier, I probably put it in my pocket instead of my purse.” I explained to the cashier. “I’m sorry, but I’ll just have to come back and get this stuff later.” Then I heard a voice say, “Let me take care of it.” and saw a woman’s arm holding a credit card to the cashier. “No,” I said, “you don’t have to. I’m sorry, I just can’t keep myself together.” I told her, wiping tears with the back of my hand. I was thinking I should just carry a roll of toilet paper in my purse to handle all the crying. “No,” she said softly, “I insist. You go take care of what you need to do.” Not wanting to be any more of a spectacle than I probably already was, I thanked her and pushed my cart out the door to the car. I have no idea who that dear woman was, I only remember her as a a young blonde woman with big brown eyes. Wish I had some other way to thank her for that sweet act of rescue when I needed it.
Dad was sleeping yesterday all day, barely responsive, but he looked so peaceful lying in his bed with the sun streaming down on his head. I was able to record some music to play softly in the background. He got to listen to the piano composition that my son Elijah wrote for him last week. When I told him it was from Elijah, Dad smiled as he listened. And then later when he heard my daughter Abby’s guitar playing and heard a rough cut from a CD we’re working on, Wayfaring Stranger, his mouth began to move as though he was singing along. The soft music seemed to help everyone, and several times I was actually able to sit by his bed and sing to him. Family and friends have been in and out, telling him they love him and what he means to them. Although he doesn’t respond a lot, he seems to hear and know what is being said.
We take turns in with him, and then out to the living room to sit, back and forth. None of us can sit there for terribly long. He isn’t eating, and when he tries to drink he chokes on the water. Last night he was moaning so loud it woke up my mother (everyone has a baby monitor to listen for him during the night when they try to sleep). I find myself praying for the Lord to either heal him or take him, but please, just do it now. I don’t think any of us can bear much more of this. To know he’s conscious but can’t talk to us about this ordeal, that he’s in pain that’s being masked by morphine. This is just awful. I wouldn’t do this to my cat if it was sick. Is this what the euthanasia proponents want us to see so we’ll get on board with their agenda? In this dark moment I understand. But none of us would have the courage to go there. We’re a bunch of daughters, all of us mothers. We want to fix this, make him well again, bring him back to us. But we can’t.
Hard. Just so terribly terribly hard.