It will be 5 weeks tomorrow since Dad’s Abdominal Aortic Aneurism (AAA) surgery. A surgery that went horribly wrong and caused massive internal bleeding, leaving Dad with several small brain strokes and a massive spinal cord stroke that paralyzed him from the chest down.
It will be two weeks tomorrow since removal of Dad’s life support and feeding tube. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, and the hardest thing I hope I will ever have to do, to watch Dad waste away and to die so slowly, gagging and choking on his own secretions.
My siblings and I take shifts and sit with Dad, talk with him, hold his hand, stroke his head, put a cool cloth to his face, damp gauze in his mouth, play his favourite songs, apply lavender moisturizer to his skin, run a fan continuously in his room, and liaise with his nurses and the palliative care team, making sure he is as comfortable as possible.
A couple of days ago I sat alone by Dad’s bedside, holding my hand to the top of his head and rubbing my thumb slowly back and forth on his forehead. I could feel his heartbeat though his crown, beating strong and fast.
A young man appeared at the window. Dad’s hospital room is on the 4th floor, at the top of the building. The man stood inside the carriage of a crane, a window cleaner. He struggled, but couldn’t close the window to clean it completely. I rose from the plastic chair that my body now knows much too well and, using all my might, managed to close the stuck window.
The window cleaner washed and wiped the window and then started to sink in the glass, the crane lowering him. Just before his head disappeared from view, the window cleaner looked from Dad lying prone on the bed and to me on the chair and, grim-faced, he raised his hand, his gesture less a wave and more of a salute. It was a moment of connection, of a stranger honoring suffering and grief, that will always stay with me.
The side of the window cleaner’s blue crane read “Height for Hire.”
Dad still knows us. Still smiles for us every day. Still nods yes and shakes his head no. Still squeezes our hands. My whole life, I needed Dad to be stronger. Now, I’m praying he were weaker.
Perhaps those of you who pray will help me ask for Dad to be taken soon and for his, for our, suffering to end.
Dad has great faith, and he felt a special affinity for St. Francis. My prayers do not seem to be reaching St. Francis or anyone else. My prayers aren’t making any heights.