Journey in Dying
I can not erase from my memory the early morning phone call I received from my sister on February 1st, 2007. She was calling to tell me that our Dad said he was going to pass away that day, and he really wanted to see me one last time. I could feel my body reacting to some truth in what she was saying as I began to cry, while trying to keep it together, and agreed to be there as soon as I could.
I quickly dressed, packed a bag, dropped my daughter off at school, and headed to my hometown four hours away. It was such a rainy day. It was really pouring outside as I was driving toward home. I called out to the angels (not really knowing if they would protect me) to keep me safe while driving because I was so upset at the prospect of that day being "the day." I really didn't have a fucking clue of what would really happen but felt rattled to my core that it could be the last time I would see my Dad. I tried not to speed down back roads to arrive home but felt the urgency inside.
I remember pulling up outside our parent's house around noon. My sister was awaiting a hospice employee to start that process of paperwork rolling. Dad's wish in dying was to die at home surrounded by all of his children, grand children, and family/friends. My sister and I were later going to pick up a new will from the attorneys later in the day. There was lots to do on my sister's part. God bless her so much!!!
I walked in to the room where my Dad sat in his Lazyboy recliner. The room was what we called growing up the "play room." It used to be filled with a pool table and a couple of beds. After we grew up and out of the house, our parents turned it into a large family room where they hung out most of the time.
Dad was moaning in pain but in remarkably great spirits considering his physical health. His lung cancer was back, and we had learned it metastasized to his rib cage and beyond shortly after our Mother passed away nine months earlier. He had underwent a specialized radiation treatment before Thanksgiving that was to assist with pain level.
I pulled up a foot stool and sat down looking at him. I asked him if I could do some foot reflexology on him, and he agreed. His legs, ankles, and feet were so swollen. This was the first time he had let me do reflexology on him. I don't even think he knew what reflexology was at the time. But, I began using a feather-light touch on his feet and ankles. He loved it, which thrilled me beyond words. I was glad to be in service to him this way. It was the least I could do to help a dying Father feel more peace or whatever he felt. I didn't care. I just wanted to do the work.
After working one foot for about 10 minutes, he asked me if I would switch and work the other one all the time telling me how great it felt. And, we repeated this pattern for over an hour until it was time to go to the attorney's office. He would say, "That feels so good, sugar." He used to call me "sugar" (pronounced SHU-GAH). I can hear that word as I'm typing this. I loved when he called me that because I knew it was pack with so much love. I did reflexology for quite a while until it was time to go to the attorney's office and to just take a break.
After returning from the attorney's office, I decided to eat something and then change in to gym clothes. I remember thinking to myself that I didn't really know what was going to happen, but I knew for certain I was staying over. I was prepared to sleep on the sofa beside his chair all night to be with him and to give my sister a break. Sleeping overnight next to him was something I had done approximately two weeks earlier while he was in the hospital to also give my sister a break. We were comical that night in the hospital because I had to sleep in the hospital bed and he slept in the comfortable visitor chair. He could only sleep sitting up because he felt like he was choking.
My sister left the house to run some errands and go home for the evening. My older brother was in the opposite end of the house. Two of our family's friends were visiting, and we were talking to Dad really having a great time. At some point during our conversation, my Dad made an "out-of-touch" comment. He had had his complete faculties up until that moment. He then told us he needed a bathroom, and we proceeded to help him. He suddenly jerked away from us as if he wanted us to leave him alone.
He flung himself back in his chair kind of hard, which startled me and the two visiting friends. Moments later he proceeded what I now know as "the dying journey." My eyes got so big as I stared blankly in the eyes of one of the visitors in shock, and he in turned looked startled. I didn't know my sister or younger brother's numbers, and I didn't want to leave my Dad's side to go fetch my older brother. I was so grateful these two friends were there and could jump in to action to make phone calls and gather people. Dad began to breathe in an irregular way, and I heard this gurgling sound coming from him, and he drooled. His head slumped to one side, and he appeared to be lifeless.
I continued to sit on the stool at his feet with my hands on his knees. I was sobbing and talking to him. I told him I heard Mom was driving a red convertible and looked so gorgeous as she was on the other side. I was singing nigunims to him and saying anything that came to mind to encourage him to do what he needed to do. (Nigunims are Hebrew meaning "melody". They are repetitive tune that express from the heart what our heads cannot hold. I had just learned some from my first weekend of Nondual Kabbalistic Healing training a couple of months earlier.)
I just knew in my own heart that I needed to encourage him on this journey in to the great unknown, but what was for me, such a final experience of knowing I would not ever see him in the flesh again. It all happened so quickly that the sequencing of my retelling may be out of order, which is understandable in trauma. I really thought that the rest of my family had missed his death.
I don't remember how much time passed, but at some point, and with his eyes completely closed still wearing his glasses, he sat up. His hands were folded in front of him as he began rocking back and forth. I do recall family members coming in and out at that point. Everyone having their own experience with what was happening. Our Dad was saying very clearly as he was rocking, "Oh, Mama, Oh, Daddy." My sister removed his glasses because she didn't want him to accidentally knock them off. I was thinking he must be seeing his parents there to greet him. His final act was to fall back against the chair, take three short breaths, and again, his head fell to one side. His breathing completely ended.
I was still on the stool at his feet thinking, "What the hell just happened?" Even though I knew exactly what had just happened. He looked so peaceful and relaxed. We called our uncle, who was the coroner at the time and awaited him to show up to make the official death pronouncement.
I was feeling that I had just been on the wildest ride of my life. I knew there were birthing doulas. I also had some awareness there were "death doulas" even though I cringed a little at how inappropriate or irreverent calling it that felt. The image of me dressed as a grim reaper complete with black cloak and scythe made me laugh inside. I didn't dare laugh outside for fear of being judged for being inappropriate. Anyway, I said to myself, "I don't know what the appropriate name is for this, but one day I am going to be certified in it." And, that was that. I let it go and was just being with all the emotions churning inside me.
My beautiful and beloved Dad was gone. No more four o'clock Sunday afternoon calls. I couldn't call him to drop by for tea. It was in the moment when I felt somewhat orphaned because now both parents were gone. They had moved on to their next life in the cosmos. Their journey here was complete. That was that!