Tag Archives: dying

The end of March.

Memories drift by in my mind of times when you weren’t sick. I look at myself then and want to grab me by the shoulders and yell what the future holds. To warn myself. Not that it’d do any good. Regardless, you’re gone now and I can’t talk to you anymore, I can’t hug you anymore. It causes me ceaseless pain and great sadness. What am I supposed to do with these feelings?

You took in a boy and made him your own and I didn’t make it easy on you at all. I regret that even though I know you hold no grudge against me for it.

I wake up most mornings and feel so empty. I don’t like it, I detest it. Where are you now? What do you see? Do you have a routine? What’s it like when you look in on us and see that we are still so deeply grieving you? How are you more alive than you’ve ever been -what does that mean?

When we spoke, you told me you believed in me and knew I would fly high with my new career, my passion and yet I’m still fumbling to make ends meet. I give 100% every day and success still evades me. Am I being impatient? What would you say? I refuse to quit, I told myself when I flew out for basic training in Cleveland that there’s no turning back, that even if things didn’t go as I imagined I would I find a way to maintain until I hit my flashpoint and catapult forward as a professional dog trainer. I told you that, too. I thought of you when I graduated on March 29th and I truly felt like a superhero when I put on my uniform. I still do. But without you here I feel like I’m flying blind.

I remember when mom called me and told me you checked into Eisenhower. March 27th. We thought it was a fungal infection and pinched nerves due to your previous radiation treatments from your first bout with the tumor in your arm. Mom called me later that evening to update me. It was dark outside and tiny snowflakes flurried through the air. I could see my breath. The lights at the training center across the street were still on. She kept telling me the doctors were almost certain it was cancer but were waiting for test results. That I shouldn’t worry just yet. My heart dropped a thousand miles in the blink of an eye and I knew this was it. I knew you were dying. My mind went blank.

I went inside on auto-pilot. Rick, Bret, and Nick asked if I was ok. I lied and said I was fine. I made dinner and went to my room. Little puddles formed at my feet and grew with every tear that fell onto them. I didn’t make a sound but my body trembled and then it shook. I didn’t sleep that night.

The next day I received a picture of you in your hospital bed, spirits bright as always and your food tray in front of you. I know that smile you had on your face didn’t come easily. I felt stuck. I didn’t want to leave my training and put it on hold. No turning back, remember? But I was overwhelmed with the urge to get to California that second to be by your side. To rally the entire family and call them to your side, a loving display of solidarity for the man that bettered this family by being the foundation on which we built our lives.

I’ve never had such trouble focusing before but I knew I had to if I wanted to graduate and become a part of the team. I wanted to focus. I was acting a little different and some of the trainers noticed. Some didn’t. I didn’t want anybody to notice anything. What was I supposed to say if they asked what was wrong? A part of your lung had collapsed and tumors were growing everywhere.

The color orange, concrete, and then a mix of muddy and frozen grass. I had walked from the training center to the outside near the back of the kennel runs. I paced. I spoke with both of my sisters, my brother and my mom. I let my mentor Lorenzo know what was happening and he called me to talk. He offered to fly me out to you. Dad, I want you to know that someone that had never met you and didn’t even know me entirely showed me such generosity and compassion without reserve. It further deepened my commitment to him and the company. It made my chest tighten – I had never been on the receiving end of something like that. It mattered to me.

I thought of you early in the morning as I ran two miles on the morning of my graduation test. March 29th. I mustered every bit of energy I had left to catch up to my mentor as he jogged past me at the tail end of that run. I wanted to impress him, I wanted to show him that even though I was exhausted I could still move, I could work, I could get it done. I find myself in a similar situation now where business is so slow and I’m struggling to keep up with life but I’m still moving. I won’t stand still. One way or another I’m going to make this happen and with the help of my team, be successful. I saw it in your eyes when I talked about professional dog training that you believed me, that I had found what I was looking for. I just wish you were here now to see me through this challenging time.

I stared at the green curtain that hung at the entrance of your room as I approached it, telling myself that this moment is about to happen and will be gone forever. I told myself that every day I was in California. I just wanted you to be healthy again. I wanted you to at least feel Makayla move. It ripped me through to pieces to watch you place your hand on her mother’s belly.

There were many times where we all gathered in that hospital room and filled the halls with our laughter, an unintentional and outward reminder to all that not even the ominous presence of death could break the love that bound us all together. You were a celebrity there, hospital staff not assigned to you would hear about you from their peers and come to meet you. You and ma, Happily Homeless. The greatest love story ever told.

The OxyContin. Terribly powerful and you were on such a high dose. I was there and you were so under it’s influence that you kept forgetting to breathe. You’d jerk and inhale sharply after a few minutes of not breathing, as if your body’s instinct kicked in. Do you remember that night? I sat next to you and calmly breathed with you:

“Breathe in.”

“Breathe out.”

“Good job, pop, great job.”

Over and over. Mom says that kept you alive that night.

The hospital staff put options on the table. Treatment. Likelyhood of survival. Hospice. Hospice…….hospice. We spoke twice before on the phone and you said you wouldn’t give up, that you’d fight this but I believe you said that because I needed to hear it. You wanted to protect us. Then came the day. Early afternoon and the sun was hitting the walls of your room because the blinds were partially closed. I kept staring at you, trying to figure out what you were thinking and feeling as we all discussed the route of hospice with you. I feel like I could tell you preferred to let nature take it’s course but didn’t want to tell us because you wanted to protect us from the heartbreak. We all knew. We closed in around you. Ma was at your side, Rae and boy by your legs. I took your hand and told you we supported and respected your decision to go into hospice. You clutched my hand and have never squeezed it so firmly. Your eyes clouded up and I know you wanted to cry. Boy took a picture of our hands firmly clasped together.

Sometimes I live these memories again and again. They’re terrible, they’re beautiful, they’re many things at once. What were you thinking? You put on such a brave face throughout this period. The handful of times you and I cried together while you were sick were the only times we ever did. I want you back. It’s a foolish thing because I know it will never be but I feel as if I will always have a hole in me that appeared when you left.

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On the eve of parting: victor in aeternum.

I drive back home tomorrow.  I can’t bear to leave you.  Soon you will be leaving me.  Leaving us all for a walk in the sun where it is not light, nor is it dark but everything is indeed beautiful.  I want to see you as a human being.  Who are you?  You’re my amazing father but you aren’t everybody’s father.  There is more to you, you are a soul.  There was a time where we didn’t know each other.  Who were you then?  What did you believe?  How did you envision your life?  Your death?  I feel in the pit of my heart that this is our last evening together.  I would love for the door to stay closed that we might sit in silence, just you and I, and though you are far away, possibly walking the plains that will pass you to the peaks of providence, it is plenty for me.

Father and son

Are you closer to transition?  You’ve become emotional and light pours through your cracks as you talk of honesty, compassion towards others, and duty.  I’m moved to respectful silence.  Whether these realizations have fully dawned on and enlightened you now or been with you for years matters little because I’m witnessing their full impact and what these traits truly do to the individual that is wise enough to cultivate them.  Are you even from this world?  I think back to the knowledge you’ve imparted to me, the wisdom you have shared.  I listen to your friends and the people whose lives you’ve touched and they speak of you with reverence.  Reverence.  What an honor it is to know you, to be so close to you and be your son.

You scoff at the suggestions of semi-celestial traits in your character but I can think of no other fitting way to describe the way you speak and more importantly, the way you have lived your life.  By example.  Principles and ideals successfully applied, lived, and tested.  You’re victorious and not even death can take that away or diminish your legacy.  Your legacy will continue and your children will be it’s torchbearers.

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Incomprehensible. Hospice.

I rejoice at the same time that I cry.  In my core I understand this is the final act and while my heart feels hollowed out and haunted by my own grief, I cannot restrain the slow but steady swell of peace I have for my father and his circumstances.  Since making his decision to forego the painful path of treatment in favor of hospice, he has appeared more peaceful.  I cannot comprehend what he must be feeling, as confronting death truly does try our convictions, however, I imagine that making such a pivotal decision must have laid to rest at least one struggle, the struggle he fought internally over allowing nature to take it’s course or fighting on for his family.  I told him we all support his decision, love him deeply and will ensure he is given the most beautiful farewell.

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I think about what it would be like if I were so close to death and there are glimpses of terror over the physical act of separating from what I have known as life and an almost intuitive sense of optimism and acceptance because I feel that there is life after death in some capacity.  What is my dad feeling?  What is he thinking?  This is a journey reserved for him only, there is a line at which we all must stop and the moment will come where I finally have to let go of his hand and let him pass beyond the curtain that we hold open for him.  This sadness is overwhelming.  My dad is not supposed to become a memory!!  He’s my DAD and I don’t want him to go!!

I miss the hospital, for awhile it seemed like that was the way it was going to stay.  Every morning pulling up to Eisenhower Medical Center here in Palm Springs, my dad’s new bedroom being the one decorated with postcards from the lower 48 states that he and my mom have visited over the last four years as the “Happily Homeless” couple.  They even have a blog about their adventures, have been written about in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and have a FB fan page and hear from people all over the country who have spotted them on the road.  Nurses not even assigned to my dad would stop by to spend time with him and talk — my dad has always left such an impression on everybody he has met.  People just love him and it is showing now more than ever.  Yesterday, they came by to say their goodbyes.  The real goodbyes because they know my dad chose hospice and this would be the last time they ever see him.

The people working at the hospice don’t think he has much time left, given that new tumors appear in his body every few days.  My mom worked in hospice as well as bereavement facilitation, lost her mother to breast cancer within 6 months of losing her brother to Hodgkins cancer and feels the same about my dad’s time.  I wish I could stop this from happening!  I woke up this morning and kept telling myself this is a terrible dream, that dad is right outside in the living room with my mom planning what to do for the day, planning another way to appreciate and experience their most recent stop here in California.  I want those times back, I want them back for his sake — I don’t want him to be afraid and there is so much more life to experience!  He has a granddaughter due in June!

I miss every day that has passed.  I have a few days left until I have to return back home and get to work to support my girlfriend and our little sea monkey.  I can’t shirk those responsibilities but I just wish the world would stop moving until this was over.  I don’t want it to be over.  But at some point soon……..it will be.

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