April was a month that was a complete rollercoster ride for me. I'm hoping that because it was it'll be a great month of May. I'll break down April for you here just so you can see what a rollercoster ride it really was but I'm pre-empting this break down with: I'm not trying to "dump" or be negative. I have some insights here that may be useful for others that are going through similar situations.
March ended with my Grandfather, who was more of a Dad to me than anyone has ever been and who I called Dad my entire life, in the hospital with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) and Chronic Obstruction Pulmonary Disease (COPD). He was on 15 liters of high flow oxygen and the docs were not very optimistic about him ever getting off the high flow. But he showed them! He went down to 6 liters by the first week in April and was transferred to a Respiratory Rehab (RR) facility until we could transfer him to a Transitional Care Unit (TCU) and then finally back home. At the RR he was getting Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy to get his strength back seeing that he was very weak due to being bed ridden from March 7th until he transferred to the RR. We were so excited when just two weeks ago he was told that the RR was kicking him out because he was doing so well and he had been approved for the TCU we were hoping.
With all this going on we kept taking our boys to the RR or the TCU on Sundays. That was our day to visit with Dad, have lunch with him and enjoy every second that we could. It was important for the kids and I to spend that time with him not just because of the CHF and the COPD but because he had been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer that had metastasized to his bones back in February right after Valentine's Day. I knew how important, when he was gone, the time that we got to spend with him would be to each of us and so did he. Dad loved the boys. He was so proud the one day because my youngest, M, decided to give his Papa a hug and kiss all by himself when we arrived. It made not only my heart soar but dad's too.
Mind you, during this whole thing with my Dad happening, my husband was still working his day job, our private company, volunteering for our fire department as an EMT and volunteering as an adult leader for our county 4-H. He was busy. We also had the added stress of my being on jury call... We didn't know for sure if I was going to be called in but thankfully I made it through the month without being called in to serve.
In the end it's a damn good thing it was important to us to get the kids into the cities to see Dad. Last week he fell in the bathroom, even though he had been doing good with his PT and getting stronger. He was trying to get dressed and missed the seat. He was pretty shook up about it and I don't blame him. It's a scary thing as an adult to fall like he did. That fall, I think, really marked the beginning of the end. Thursday, almost a week ago, my Mom showed up to the TCU to find that Dad was back up to 6 liters of oxygen and was on a mask, not a nasal cannula. She called me at 7:45a to tell me this and said she was taking him to the hospital. Once at the hospital the ER doctor ran some x-rays and ended up telling my Mom that he didn't think that Dad was going to make it through the day and suggested she call everyone who needed to be with her and Dad. When my Mom told me this I called my husband home from work, gathered my boys including the oldest being pulled out of school. When my husband got home, we flew down to the hospital. We got there around noon. Arriving in the ER to Dad being in a coma basically was a scary thing. I knew that it wasn't a good thing and his breathing was labored and erratic. By 1p the ER was sending him up to the ICU where he would be until the mortuary came to get his body. That transfer from the ER to the ICU was horrible. His vitals dropped further and when he was settled in the ICU the nurses actually turned off the monitors so we didn't have to worry about numbers.
At 2:35p Dad passed away. What's funny is that I was right there next to him, telling him that it was OK, we were all going to be OK without him, and he needed to go with Grandma. Grandma has been gone for almost 18 years and I know he wanted to be back with her... She was his ONLY love and he missed her so. But at the very end when he drew his last breath I smelled Grandma's perfume that she always wore. I took so much comfort in the fact that she had come to help him cross. He was at peace finally. He was back with the love of his life. After he had passed the boys were able to come in and say their final goodbyes. R and B didn't want to get close to Dad and that was perfectly fine. M on the other hand had me lift him up, gave dad a kiss on the forehead, told Dad "love you Papa" and was done. J took the boys home for me after that and I stayed with my Mom until the mortuary had come and taken Dad's body.
Friday we signed papers for cremation and had a final viewing of Dad. I kissed his forehead one last time and told him I loved him. I think the hardest part of all was leaving him at the mortuary knowing that I'd never see him in body again. THAT fact hit me like a ton of bricks and broke my heart.
Now that I've gone through all of that and brought you up to speed... Here's my "AH-HA" moments and insights.
- We never know when or where the fates are going to cut our lines.
- We need to spend as much time with our loved ones letting them know how much they mean to us as we possibly can so that we have no regrets.
- Our loved ones will come get us and help us cross when the time is right for us to leave our Earthly bodies.
- Smelling my grandma's perfume the exact moment that dad drew his last breath was her way of letting me know that she was there and everything was going to be OK.
- We, as humans, stress about things that are out of our control but everything works out the way it's supposed to even though it may not be what we want to happen.
- We need to live our lives without regret... Period.
April was a rollercoster that I tried to take in stride and let the fates lead me where they needed me to be. Funny thing is I'm more at peace with Dad's passing because of that and because he was at peace with his passing. I'm determined though that April's showers of sorrow are bringing May flowers of happiness and peace. I'm hoping that May will bring us all flowers of happiness and peace!