Last Days

We buried Dad last week. I thought that after Alzheimer’s had robbed him of his memories, his ability to walk, and eventually the power of speech or ability to take care of himself in any way, after he lay there days and nights on end practically uncommunicative, that I had long ago said goodbye to him. I was wrong, emphatically wrong.

His actual passing away still hit me like a ton of bricks. Solace in the certainty that he is now without pain and in a better place and reunited with loved ones praising God helps, tremendously, but the pain of loss is still there, still fresh and sharp and focused.It still comes in waves at unsuspected times. And that is a good thing. It is good to miss someone who meant so much to you, one you loved so deeply, one whose love for you you never questioned. There is no loss without love.

I was fortunate. I spent the last eight days of his life with him. He was unconscious from the stroke that finally took his life. Nevertheless I talked to him like he could answer. I read the Bible to him. I kissed him goodnight and good morning. in fact, i kissed him goodbye every time i left his room. Just in case. And one morning, just in case came when I slipped into the bath for a shower. Through the door, I heard his last rattling breath. He was finally, irretrievably, gone.

He taught me so much. One of his greatest lessons was the value of time, a truly precious gift, time spent tossing a football or baseball, going to football games, wandering in the woods with a rifle on our shoulders, just time together, talking, sharing what went on in our respective worlds. Without that profound lesson, I would have missed out on those last eight days, hard, stress-filled days with nights of fitful sleep, days and nights I would not have spent any other way, a glorious time with the man who had given me life and love and shelter, a man whose instruction and example continue to inform my life and actions, a man who had shaped me into the kind of man who would want to be there with him to share his last days.

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