Sitting with my 3 sisters and mother in a small sterile room in the nursing home looking on as my father struggled for each breath was not only surreal, my emotional pain was debilitating. Yet, I remember it as though it were yesterday, even then, I knew the REAL pain, deep mourning for my grandfather who passed away only a few months earlier was just beginning. I had no idea there were just 3 short months left with Jocko, my boyfriend, before he would die unexpectedly at the age of 53 making this my year of loss. The year I would lose the 3 most significant men in my life all within 9 months.
I’ve heard it said, most people don’t regret what they HAVE done, remorse is often reserved for the things we wish we HAD done. Hence, the snapshot of my story I want to share with you today.
My Dad was a hardworking wonderful man who was married to my mother for fifty-eight years and together they raised four daughters, I am the youngest. He was tall, some would say lanky, kind, spiritual, quiet, and funny. He was handsome, hardworking, a sharp dresser, neat as a pin and like to do his own laundry. He was a beautiful man, physically and spiritually.
Hospice, in my opinion, is code for Angels on Earth. There are not enough words and perhaps Webster’s hasn’t even come up with an ample description of this extraordinary support system and their empathetic compassionate warriors that proudly represent them while compassionately comforting bereaved families member during the end-of-life process.
In a very genuine, gentle caring way, they encouraged and guided us to say our goodbyes and give him permission to leave.
I couldn’t believe I was doing this again so soon after my Grandfather, at least my Grandad was in our family home surrounded by people and things he cherished all his life. It didn’t seem fair that Dad wasn’t going to die at home. Even at my age, fifty-two at the time, the fact that my dad was about to die, didn’t seem fair at all. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye or let him go! However, I did tell him otherwise… as hard as it was I encouraged him to leave us and gave him my blessing.
You see my dad was a deeply spiritual man. I knew he wasn’t afraid of dying. I knew he just didn’t want to leave US.
It was Day 3, the last day, and the nurses assured us, although he could not respond, the hearing is the last to go. I knew it was time to speak my truth.
As I spoke, I remember my thoughts, I wished I had said more to my grandfather in his final moments. I remember feeling stupid for not realizing even when hospice came in to care for my granddad I still didn’t believe I would never hear his voice or see him again. He was a very important part of our family life, for ALL of my life – we grew up next door. Believe it or not, I never imagined life without him or the day that it would be reduced to photos, memories, and visits to the cemetery.
Like with my Dad and Grandfather, it was a Sunday, the day I brought my boyfriend to the emergency room, how was I to know that night when they anesthetized him he would never again regain consciousness. And each day, for the next three weeks while we sat with him in intensive care his mom and I were certain this would be the day he would open his eyes and return to us. Even knowing all the things I had said to dad and pospsie, I still wished I had told him how much I loved and thanked him for all he brought into my life before they placed him on the gurney and wheeled him away. Maybe I did. I was suffering from PTSD and my memory isn’t clear.
My dad had Parkinson’s disease, he was in a nursing home for nearly five years before he lost his fight in the quietest hours of the morning that Thursday in April with my mom at his side.
The last few years of his life, Dad, was a complete invalid, unable to speak and forced to rely on the nursing home staff for all his needs and the most basic of comforts, even to scratch his nose, even today this thought still breaks my heart.
It was Christmas Eve, After my divorce, I always spent that special night at my parent’s house so my daughter and I would wake up there Christmas morning. As far back as I can remember, the entire family would attend the candlelight Church service that always concluded with the entire congregation singing Silent Night by candlelight outside the front church steps. Quintessential New England. Quintessential Connecticut.
As my daughter got older, we got older, we continued our Christmas eve tradition. Sadly, the only person who attended the service every year without fail was dad. I don’t remember the last time the entire family attended Christmas Eve candlelight service together but my 3 sisters and I were always home Christmas Eve night with Mom and Dad. Looking back, I’m certain we always believed we had the following year to get it right and the whole family would attend church together once again.
Looking back, on what would be the last Christmas Eve Dad was healthy enough and able to walk on his own, I arrived at my parent’s late in the afternoon as usual and flustered from a busy day of work and typical holiday season nonsense.
My sisters were going in and out of the house, in between last-minute errands and mom was busy cooking, wrapping, and putting the final touches on her holiday decorations. Why didn’t I know then, what I know now, to savor every moment of that CHAOS?!
My dad disappeared to the back of the house and dressed for church, it is clear no one plans to attend the service other than him, soon he reappears, and looking into my eyes he asks” why don’t you come to church with me tonight”? I laugh it off and fein how tired I am from my long work week but will be there waiting for him when he returns from the service and we will begin the holiday celebration then.
I can’t tell you how vividly that memory is burned in my brain and the deep regret I have for not recognizing that very important moment 16 years ago. Shame on me.
I deeply regret that selfish moment… I regret not recognizing my Dad missed me and just wanted to spend time together. It was not in his nature to ask anything from his girls, or even his wife, he was a giver, not a taker. I now understand I regret missing the opportunity to make another memory with him, what would be the last time he was able to attend Church on Christmas eve, clearly it was important to him. I can only hope he has forgiven my selfishness, of course, he has because that’s who he was. Shame on me.
I still regret not telling my boyfriend how grateful I was to have had him in my life before they sedated him. Meeting him at 50 made me believe it was still possible to find a man to look forward to spending the rest of my life with.
I’m a lucky girl to have had the love of three extraordinary men in my life.
Sadly, they were all called home the same year.
I love and miss them daily but they have left me with a great gift in knowing, every day IS a gift and
we are not only blessed by those that are present in our lives, remember to be grateful for all those who have touched it and made a difference.