September 2, 2013

The waiting is the hardest part

One of the things I have really agonized over as we've prepared for my dad's death was whether or not to take SB to see him. On the one hand, I felt she needed the opportunity for closure, to say goodbye to a man who has been one of the most important people in her young life.

On the other, I was afraid of how it would impact her to see him in his current state. I did not want to traumatize her. Or for her long term memories to be of him as a dying man, rather than the loving, fun BaBop she has known until recently.

My father is not in a hospital bed, hooked up to a bunch of machines. He remains in the memory care facility where he has lived - and SB has visited - since April. It is a familiar place for her, and him. The hospice team does not plan to move him unless absolutely necessary.

In the end, I decided to let her choose. I've been very open with her so far. She knows he is dying. I asked her if she wanted to see him. She said she did. I did my best to prepare her for what it might be like.

The day of the planned visit, my mom went before us, and called me with an update on his condition. She found him as he has often been of late - in bed in the fetal position. He was not particularly communicative, but indicated he would welcome a visit from SB and me.

Knowing things were certainly not going to get any better, I decided the time was right.

"BaBop will probably be in bed when we get there," I explained. "And he may not feel like talking much. But you can talk to him."

When we entered his room, he did not stir. We walked around to the side of his bed. He opened his eyes just long enough to greet her, by name. Then he closed them again.

"BaBop is going back to sleep," she said.

"Yes. But you can climb into his bed to give him a hug and a kiss if you want to."

And she did so. He hugged her back, and looked at me. His eyes were watery. I was not sure if it was from tears or not. She climbed down and said, "We should go so BaBop can rest."

It was my turn for a hug and a kiss. He hugged back as strongly as his frail body would allow. I told him I loved him. He did not speak.

As we were leaving, our favorite pastor was coming for a visit with dad. It was as brief as ours had been. He opened his eyes long enough to greet her, then closed them again.

I then took SB to my father's planned resting place. She has been asking a lot of questions about what will happen after he dies. The church my parents and I belong to has a lovely columbarium, and that is where they both have chosen to be laid to rest.

SB thought it was a beautiful setting. She was happy there was a waterfall, and that it is located close to the beach. I explained she would be able to come visit him there anytime she wanted to. That she could talk to him.

As I write this, my dad is still with us. He is very up and down. I am not following any kind of blogging schedule at this point. Most days, I am too emotionally and physically exhausted to do so.

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