When I saw my husband’s face on my phone, I knew immediately why he was calling. And my heart sank. I steeled myself to answer and hear the news, then I heard my husband’s voice, informing me of what we had known was pending and inevitable. Knowing it’s coming doesn’t make it any easier.
He was diagnosed almost a year earlier, and he went through many rounds of treatment before he eventually became disoriented and confused. After a brief visit to the hospital and a relocation to my brother-in-law’s house to have more constant monitoring, the decision was made to stop the rounds of treatment. They weren’t helping anyway. At that point, everyone just hoped for the best.
He had his good days and bad. On the good days, he would sleep through the night, walk around the house trailing his oxygen hose, interact with visitors, watch the Orioles’ games. On the bad days, he would think the ceiling fan was leaking water onto his bed and start talking about people who died years earlier as if he had just seen them yesterday. For a while, there were many more good days than bad. Until last week.
My husband took the boys to go visit him before leaving for a weekend long baseball tournament over an hour away from home. We would be staying the entire weekend, so this would be the last time they would see him until the next week. He was having a very bad day. Confused, delusional, scared. It was the worst he had been in a while, and it was quite the sudden turn. We got word on Saturday morning that an ambulance took him to a hospice home very early that morning. We contemplated returning home, but were told it wasn’t a matter of hours, but rather days. We hoped we’d have time to see him again. We stayed for the tournament.
Late Sunday night we returned home, and while I took the kids home for dinner, baths and bedtime, my hubs went over to the hospice to visit. The weekend was long and tiring, so I was in bed by the time he returned home, but the text from him that I saw the next morning reported how sad it was to see him like that. He had been unconscious for the past 3 days.
Despite the fact that there was laundry and grocery shopping to be done, neglected while we were out of town the past weekend, I decided to forego all necessary yet mundane chores the next day after work. There are priorities in life, and this was one of them.
When I arrived at the hospice center, my first impression was that it looked like a southwestern style spa oasis, not a building housing very ill people a few miles from Baltimore City. It was a beautiful and richly appointed place, and the people inside seemed genuinely caring and sympathetic. When I entered his room, I saw him sleeping on the bed. A shadow of his former self and not much bigger than an anorexic teenager. There was a TV facing his bed showing scenes of gently flowing streams and playing calming music. It was very peaceful. I did find the balcony off of his room, that overlooked a wooded area, to be a bit unnecessary in this setting, but it was a very lovely room.
I was glad to be alone with him. It’s too much pressure when there are others there. By ourselves I could just talk to him and hold his hand. I talked about my oldest son’s tournament the previous weekend and how his team won the whole thing. I told him that I was just starting to feel the baby move and I was so hoping he could have met his 13th grandchild, even though I knew he would see his birth and life from wherever his next destination might be. I told him we would give the baby his name for his middle name, despite not having discussed this with my husband prior. I told him that I was sure that he would soon be with his wife who passed a few years prior and that I knew it would be a happy reunion for them both. I talked about when the boys were little and he and his wife used to watch them when I got home from work, allowing me to get dinner ready, and how the boys used to love visiting each day. I told him how much we were all going to miss him, but how we understood if it was time for him to go. I told him that 81 years was a lengthy time to be on this earth, and that he had fought for long enough.
I talked and talked, but have no idea if he heard a word. It didn’t matter. All of those words were just me saying goodbye. When I heard that he passed the next morning, I was so thankful that I had that opportunity to see him that one last time.
He was a wonderful father to my husband, a surrogate dad to me, and a loving and doting Pop to my children. He lived in our home for the past 15 years, and his absence will create a great void in our lives and hearts. We will miss him terribly. But are thankful we had the chance to know him. The world is missing one more great man today, and so are we.