i thought i would be able to sleep tonight without coming here to wrap up my day. but, apparently meeting you here through my posts has become an elemental part of my daily routine. perhaps i will need some time to pass before i can know and share with you impressions that are close to my heart, but it seems best to state a few things simply to you, my dear family and friends.
tonight, at 10:40 pm, our dad slipped away from us. each of us in the room -- mom, cheryl, jonathan, bethany, tim and me, along with our nurse laura -- experienced his passing in our own unique way. likely tomorrow I will discover some of their perspectives -- perhaps they are completely different from my own. but for me, i must say, i experienced his death as gentle, generous, dignified and, yes, with a bit of dad's signature twinkle!
* gentle, because it wasn't sudden or traumatic in any way. his final breaths came intermittently, with long pauses in between, for about 30 minutes. we had time to adjust. there were no gasps or ragged, wheezing labored efforts, no heaving chest; it was...well...different than any other type of breathing mishaps he's had. It felt purposeful. and not scary to me, or him, in the least.
* generous, because all of us were able to be in the room together. while this may not have been by dad's specific choosing, i do feel inclined to think it was by design. why not just by chance? well, today contained the only 12 hour window of time since his icu "brain death" days in july, when mom and all of us kids (minus the military one) have been together in the same room with him. without going crazy on the math, i'd say there were about 119 other 12-hour windows that could have been given to our family for his passing. some of which, were only mom or me present with dad. or dad in his room, all alone. how strange and wonderful, i had projected in an earlier post, it would be to have us all together in the same room wishing him well as he enters eternity. it was both of these sensations, and more. strange, wonderful, and most merciful to all.
* dignified. dad, all this time, and despite intensive levels of cognitive decline and emotional strain, has always had a presence about him that others beyond our family have noted. lots of different descriptors that they used, nurses, doctors, therapists, visitors, to explain their experience with him....but i've delighted in their efforts to put their sense of him into words. because no matter what words they use (fascinating, intelligent, cute, precious, adorable, mysterious, inspiring), i always see an overlay of dignity; like his father, he was always gracious in every setting. eager to express appreciation at your presence. a true military diplomat. and even though his ability to interpret his environment became diminished over the past few weeks and months, his sense of dignity remained. i can't describe the dignity within his death tonight; perhaps tomorrow i can gather some sibling support on this one and get back to you. tim says it was quiet dignity.
* with a bit of dad's signature twinkle. at the end, when his breaths became intermittent, we didn't know when (or if) they would resume. and as they continued to return, time after time, they gradually began to morph into breathing i'd never seen before. had this happened just once or twice, i could have handled it by quickly stashing the experience away in a distant, vague memory bank. but as these intermittent breaths continued i began to get a bit disoriented: what is happening here? cheryl's imagery mid-way through provided an immedate visual for me to hold on to. and then, all of a sudden, i saw the sparkle in it all. his breathing made it appear he was running. running, my laser-beam-heaven-focused sister recommended, straight to the gates of heaven. as soon as she said it, i could see it. the eager over-exertion that forces one to slow down just for a few moments to catch one's breath. but not for long, as something worth the effort is right before your eyes... a big wide ribbon that you're straining to break, so you can know the race is won. run dad! we promise we're not that far behind.
it wasn't hard to imagine the twinkle in his eyes & i've seen it, against all odds, all the way to the end; surely it was there tonight.
so, so much yet to accomplish in the celebration of dad's life and the putting of his body to rest. I want to officially thank each of you for your ongoing support of me and my siblings as we have shared dad's journey with you. i feel we have a few days, yes and perhaps weeks and beyond, to process what we have experienced. I welcome you to sign off, and return to your normal routines. or, if you'd just assume stay and participate with us in our process of embracing our dad's passing, we welcome you to stay on.
Based on the speed with which i have raced to my laptop each evening, i can only imagine that this form of community will continue to play a key role in my life as the reality of what we've lived through comes to settle in my soul.
brother daniel and i are planning to collect your individual memories and impressions, and integrate them into the upcoming celebration of dad's life. if you have any photos to share, feel free to send them via email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. if you have words to share, feel free to post them here or email them to me. and for any snailmailers, our address is 60 East Vernon Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85004.
has my gratitude to you for your connection to me and my siblings been apparent in my posts and responses to your comments? has my need and appreciation for your love and support been clearly expressed? if you could spend time with me physically in the same room, i feel as though you would see it oozing out my pores. you'd feel it in my hugs, you'd see it in my eyes. without you here, my ability to be present as i was with my dad, day after day, week after week, would not have been possible.
so once again, i thank you with all my heart for keeping me and my family in your heart.
xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox always and forever,