Posted by: birdsandsquirrels | October 17, 2008

my dad

Wednesday was the three year anniversary of the day my dad died. I wrote a little about his death here. He died a little after midnight, in the hospital, surrounded by me, my mom, my sister, and my sister’s boyfriend. We had made the decision to remove him from life support after it became clear how massive the brain hemorrhage was. He would never regain consciousness.

When we had the conversation with the doctor about removing him from the supportive measures, which included a feeding tube and breathing treatments, I was most worried about how he would die. I mean really, how would he die? What would cause him to stop breathing? Without the breathing treatments his lungs would fill with fluid. Without the feeding tube, would he starve to death? I didn’t want him to be in any more pain. And I was scared. What would it look like? I wanted to be there for every moment possible, but I needed to prepare myself for what death would look like. Up until that time, I had been fairly lucky and not experienced any close deaths, and had never been to a funeral. How do you know when someone is dead? Would he turn blue? Would it be quiet? I was scared and ashamed that I was so concerned with the mechanics of death, instead of focusing on loving my dad for the few hours he had left.

My mom is a nurse, and she knows a little about death. She told us to expect the “death rattle” an unnerving gurgling and rattling noise that people make when they are about to die. That can go on for days. They moved him to a private room in the skilled nursing unit, with a view of the garden. He was removed from the monitors, the feeding tube was disconnected, the oxygen stopped, he would be given massive doses of morphine. We made it clear that we did not want him in pain. It took about a day and a half for him to die. We had no idea when it would happen, but we had one of us there at all times, so he wouldn’t be alone when he passed. It ended up happening around midnight, with all four of us there. The death rattle had gotten very bad and loud. He was coughing a lot. He made strange moans. It was scary. But I wanted to be there. He had slipped down in the bed a ways, so the four of us tried to rearrange his tall, sturdy, strong body so he would be more comfortable. That brought on a coughing fit. Within a minute, he took his last breath, and his tongue kind of stuck out, and that was that. It was quiet. We all had our hands on him when he went. It was over. We sat in the room for about half an hour before calling the nurse. We made arrangements for him to be cremated, and we left the hospital for the very last time, without our dad. It was a full moon. It was raining a little – the first rain of fall. It was beautiful. He was no longer in pain.

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