My father died at 6:25 am on October 4, 2009. He was 86 years old. It has been one year. I put up a post last November titled "That's it. I can feel life leaving. He's cooler already." I felt agitated this morning when I woke up and at first couldn’t figure out why. Then I knew.
Tonight I was studying and a friend showed me a YouTube video of “Free Hugs” and the musical accompaniment was a version of Hallelujah. The tears came and I could feel that ever-tightening knot in my throat – that sadness knot. This was the same song that my brother and I played for Dad during the last hour of his life. The lead singer was my nephew. I knew then that my connection was strong tonight and my earth space is tumbled and intertwined with the world beyond.
It’s a powerful connection – that connection or communication that goes on around us – and I’m often oblivious. But not tonight. I fully expect to wake up at 3:44am tonight. Just one of those things that happens. If I don’t, then all is well too.
Below is an excerpt from that November post. And behind it is the Harvard Glee Club Lite singing Hallelujah. That was my nephew’s version that my father loved so much.
Thank you all for indulging me one more time.
…”Long long day for Dad. That evening around 11:00pm I find the hospital chapel and sit quietly, and pray for guidance, and some knowledge of what’s going on. I return to learn that his attending physician had called and spoken with brother and told him the pneumonia was serious and this was not looking good. I really didn’t think I’d get an answer that quickly. We leave at 1:00 am to get some rest. Ed, the CCU nurse, promises he’ll call if anything changes.
Sunday: I wake up with a start at 3:44 am – have to pee. On return to room phone rings. Ed: “Not looking good. Change for the worse. You better come in.” We are there in 12 minutes. Oxygen on. Ed pulls open Dad’s left eyelid to show me a dilated and nonresponsive-to-light pupil. "Probably another bleeding stroke episode" he says. I glance at the monitor. Sinus rhythm irregular and heartbeat rapid. BP 88/64 – lower than entire week but okay. Respiration 24. Oxygen absorption low 90’s. Not good but okay.
Ed calls me into hallway. He verifies health directive – “DNR.” Return to bedside and Ed says the vasopressin drip is the only thing maintaining his arterial pressure. He wanted Dad to stay alive until we arrived. I am beginning to get it. It’s 5:15am and the vasopressin has been discontinued. The hospitalist confirms the advanced directive with me - again. Ed softly explains that they normally would have intubated by now; however, we would let death come on its own. They leave my brother and me alone for the final hour. I cradle Dad in my arms. We place an iPod of his grandson singing with the Harvard Glee Club next to his ear (Hallelujah) , and we tell him how loved he is, and what a great life he had, and how we will miss him. I glance at the monitor constantly. Suddenly I feel the warmth rush out of Dad’s face and I glance up. Sinus rhythm irregular, BP dropping rapidly, respirations slowing. I say to L “That’s it. I can feel life leaving him. He's cooler already. Touch his face.” L declines and is crying softly, as am I. The monitor stops recording BP, but heart is still beating and faint respiration. “He’s left us. He’s gone." L touches him. I hug Dad and cry and cry and cry. And that’s it. Peaceful death. Cold body. It is 6:25 am.
I walk to the chapel again. Alone. Amazing Grace coming softly through the speakers. All is well even though it’s not.
L and I gather Dad's few things and leave. We go to the local IHOP – our favorite childhood restaurant that is still serving pancakes in the same place 50 years running. Surprisingly, they taste good. And we head out on a blustery gray morning to get some sleep, and then tend to business.”