IMG_0045

 

Photograph courtesy of K. Farwell

Finally. Time to write again. Have been going through an emotional wringer——one of those life passages that grabs you, kneads you, and reshapes you, hopefully, into something better. This is about life after death—–my life after my father’s death.

My father died on Oct. 22 at the age of 92. As I like to think of it,  he left his “shell” behind and entered  into what I’ve come to call the “cloud of unknowing”—-that place where we all are in close relationship with a God that loves us. I have caught glimpses of it during prayer and meditation, and once with a chemically induced ticket. When I focus on centering prayer, I slowly die to what is around me that holds me to this plane, and that is what I watched my father do for months. Unfortunately, they were months that were physically and emotionally very painful for him.

Dementia is not a fun process to watch or to experience. It would be different, I think, if you just woke up one morning and had no memory, could not think clearly, and could not participate in conversations because your mind no longer could keep up with things. Instead, for my father,  it was a slow process that grieved my father until the end because he was aware of what he was losing and had lost. The greatest sacrifice dementia demanded from him was his independence. First, he allowed caretakers to enter his home several times a day to help him with meals and medicine. …and operating both the television remote and the telephone.  But as his dementia progressed, he needed more and more assistance.  It wasn’t until the last few months of his life that we confiscated the keys to his vehicle. To him, I know, that symbolized one of the final straws in his fight to maintain his independence.  When his last surviving sibling died, his younger brother, he voiced his realization that he was ready to die, and we gave him our permission.

Shortly after that, there were multiple hospitalizations for a variety of physical conditions, and I was privileged to spend time with him during most of those times. I am grateful I got to feed my father and to hug him and say the Lord’s Prayer with him as we embraced—-something we did several times a day during his last long hospital stay. Those were special moments for us. In the end, he was too sick to go home, even with care-takers. When he left the hospital in September, as health power of attorney and with his permission,  I admitted him to a facility that provided rehab services.

My sisters and I hung on to the fantasy that his strength would return and he could return to his home. This never happened, and rehab became skilled nursing care. And I felt very, very guilty because one of his strongest desires was never to be in one of “those places;” he was always adamant about wanting to die at home. In less than two weeks after transferring to skilled nursing care he was admitted to a hospital with a diagnosis of pneumonia; he died the next day. I was driving over 300 miles to be with him, but he died before I got there.

My grief has been fed with unrealistic self- expectations and guilt. I am a nurse. I was supposed to help him get better. In spite of everything I did, that did not happen. My dreams have been filled with thinking of things that would “make Daddy well”—-only to wake and realize he was already dead.  But I think I’ve finally started getting better. A friend helped me realize my dreams of repeatedly trying to save my father’s life are actually my way of trying to “re-image” myself as a “successful savior.” With that insight came the realization that I have been trying to do God’s job, and now I am starting to let go of what happened and my need to constantly re-play it and fix it in my dreams. I have been using an Anglican rosary to pray to “Almighty and Merciful God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” to bless us and keep us, to have mercy on us, and to grant us peace. It is working. I am starting to accept and move on. Those prayers are saving my sanity and restoring my ability to engage in living my life once more in a way that lets God drive the bus. May God bless and keep you.

Advertisements