My father passed peacefully at 5:01 this morning. I was not with him at the moment of death, but had been for the days and hours prior.
Thursday and Friday, dad was hanging on. He was eating a little, and the staff told me he was greatly enjoying the playlist I had made for him. He did have pain, and hospice worked hard to stay ahead of it and keep him comfortable.
Saturday he began to decline significantly. Hubby, SB and I went to see him in the afternoon. I knew it would be the last time for them. Hubby had the opportunity to say goodbye. Dad did not wake, but we felt he knew we were there.
SB gingerly got in the bed beside dad and gave him a hug and a kiss. She told him she loved him. Then she got his childhood teddy bear, which has been in his room for some time, and put it on the bed beside him.
Our dog Shaggy even sniffed and licked dad's hand.
Sunday things began to really progress. After mom saw him early in the day and called me, I knew I needed to go. I packed up the things I felt I should have with me and kissed my family goodbye.
I'm not going to detail the death process here. There are many places where you can read about it. There are specific signs, and a path that is somewhat predictable takes place during what is known as the "active" stage of dying. We experienced most of it with dad.
I will say this - it is ugly. And raw. But the hospice team was by our side, and dad's, the entire time. They walked us through everything that was happening, assuring us he was comfortable and what we were observing was normal. He was treated with dignity and surrounded by love.
I sat at his bedside for hours just stroking his hand. I played his favorite music and spoke to him. He was essentially comatose, but he felt my presence. He would respond to the sound of my voice by turning his head in my direction.
At one point, when mom and I were both bending over, kissing him and speaking to him, he clearly tried to open his eyes and speak. And to reach out for us. But he could not. The hospice nurse said his response to us was quite remarkable, especially considering how close to death he was.
Late last night, things seemed to slow down a bit, or perhaps stall would be the best way to describe it. Mom and I decided it made sense for us to go home to try to get some sleep. The nurse said she would call when she felt it was getting close.
I got home around midnight. My phone rang at 4:53 AM. She told me it was time to return. Just a few minutes later, as I was preparing to get in the car, she called back to report he had passed. She said it was incredibly peaceful. He never labored. He simply took three more breaths after she had called me, and that was it.
My father has peace at last. His suffering is over. His mind and body are free. And my family can now begin to grieve in earnest, celebrating the wonderful life he had and how much he meant to each of us.
I will not be back to this space for a while. But please know how much your outpouring of love and support has - and does - mean to me. It has been so healing to be able to share my journey with you.