Monday, December 11, 2006

Seeing my Dad for the Last Time...

I found my dad in his bathroom slumped over the sink. He wasn't breathing. I called 911 and then I dragged him out into the living room and started CPR. By the time the paramedics got there, he had vital signs and his sats were good.

When I arrived at the hospital, I knew he wasn't going to make it. I knew it had been a neurological event; one pupil was pin point, the other dilated (sign of increased intracranial pressure). So he was brain dead. They feared he was, but not officially charted as so by the doctors. You know, of course they've got to run all the tests first.

The hospital he was taken to is the hospital where I work. They were kind enough to try to keep everything going (fluid, meds) even though I'd made him a DNR. It does more for the family if they can actually touch a warm hand, and I had three brothers who had to make it to town from far away.

After it was official and my brothers had made it there, we had the staff to turn off the ventilator and unhook him from everything. I knew he was no longer in his body, but still it was comforting to see him and feel his physical body. It took about 30-45 minutes for his heart to actually stop, although he wasn't breathing. Once his heart rate got to 30, my brother started to pray. When he finished, we looked up and there was no more heartbeat. We left almost immediately.

Outside, my brother's wife walked with me and he went to get their truck. I decided to walk to the street in front of the hospital to direct him so that he would not confusingly enter the exit-only drive way. While I was standing there I was leaning on a fire hydrant, shuffling around, not really paying much attention to anything. Seemed like it was taking forever. But then there appeared a man. I didn't see him appear, but he was just there.

He looked like my father, but not exactly. He had the same beard with gray just at the bottom on both sides, not in the middle. He was wearing the kind of hat my dad wears and the kind of over coat he used to wear when he felt like and cared about dressing up. He was missing some teeth, like my dad, and had some other similar features: height, demeanor, hair, and even some facial features.

He was walking very fast towards me, but with an agility that you don't find too much in a man who looked to be this gentleman's age. He carried an umbrella in one hand and a plastic, see-through case in the other. He smiled just a little, but didn't speak. I couldn't take my eyes off him, but what really got me was when he got ready to pass. He didn't stay on the course of the side walk. Instead, he walked slowly between me and the fire hydrant (only about a foot of space in between), and I actually had to move a little to let him get by. Gaze locked, he looked into my eyes all the while moving around me. I mean it would have been quite rude if not given the circumstances surrounding the whole event. At the time, I wasn't offended at all. Of course I was reminded of my father from the very first moment I saw him. But now that he was walking away, I wanted to speak to him and tell him about my dad. He was about 10ft away when I called to him the first time. He didn't turn around. I called to him about 10 more times, each time louder and louder until I was actually yelling. Never once did he turn around to look at me again. He was stepping so proudly, so easily, so briskly. Like he wanted me to see. Like he needed me to see. My dad would fall often and hadn't been able to walk well in years because of nerve damage in his right leg related to a long course of radiation to his right pelvis back in 1991 (He'd survived 2 rounds of Cancer and had been cancer free since then).

Anyway, I felt like I'd been given a rare opportunity to see my dad one last time. Or at least was open enough to see what was truly there. In my heart, I knew Dad was trying to let me know he was alright. We'd let his physical body go and he was off and running. As for the appearance, I figured that he looked enough like my dad to get my attention and get me ready for the experience, but not so much as to scare the you know what out of me.

I left feeling assured, blessed, happy, comforted...

1 comment:

Sean said...

What an experience.
I'm sure the experience was surreal.
I too have been visited by a passed loved one.