My Daddy is Dying.

This is a photo of Daddy from his days at Mississippi State University, circa 1935.

My Daddy is dying.

This is evident but when?  I’ve spent two weeks with Mother  and Daddy; making banana pudding, salmon, anything that my Daddy will eat.  He weighs nothing; skin and bones.  My sister is with us.  It’s like we were in the beginning, just the four of us and it really is sweet in a weird sort of way.

It’s been two weeks and I begin to feel anxious about work, and decide to return and just check in with folks, touch them; connect.  I drive 8+ hours home and arrive the next morning at school and immediately know that I am in the wrong place.  I can feel it, sense it.   And then my sister calls.  Yep, this is the confirmation that I am in the wrong place.  Daddy is being taken to the hospital via an ambulance.  I tell my sister to put the phone to his ear and I tell him, “Wait for me to get to you.  Wait for me.”  And wait he did.

I load my two Scottish Terriers into my Volkswagen Cabriolet and on the road we go within 30 minutes.  The speed limit in Virginia is 70 miles per hour.  That translates to 80 miles per hour for me.  Only this day is different.  All bets are off!  I am going to my Daddy.

Scottish Terriers
Gus and Maddie, my trusted Scottish Terriers.

I had been to a Conscious Discipline workshop by now and heard Dr. Becky Bailey talk about this exact scenario.  If you encounter a driver that is driving really fast, then wish them well.  Make up the story!  Well my story is not made up.  My Daddy is waiting for me.  He has made a promise to me to wait for me before he dies and I am going to do everything to keep my promise to get to him as quickly as possible.

Of course, the Virginia State Trooper stopped me close to the Virginia/Tennessee border.  Gus and Maddie were not happy with this.  They could sense the urgency of the trip and growled at the State Trooper.  I quickly told the State Trooper my story.   He answered in kind and quickly scolded me,  then escorted me to the Tennessee state line.  Sweet!  He kept me safe and no ticket!  Tennessee’s speed limit at that time was 75 miles per hour.  That translates to 85 miles per hour.   So off I went at 85 miles per hour.  The speed limit is a suggestion.  Right?

I don’t think that I really breathed the entire trip.  It really was as if the the seas were parting as I  drove and folks just moved over for me.  I could feel it.  No one ever honked or did any gesturing.  It felt encouraging.

I arrive at the hospital in Dayton, TN,  secure the pups in the car and literally run into the hospital feeling desperate to find my people.  Finally I find the room.  I walk in and find my Mother sitting in a chair, “zoned” out.  My sister is at the bedside with Daddy but looking tired.  I breathe.  I breathe again and again.

A nurse comes in right after me and announces that my Dad will get a breathing therapy.  This is when I called a halt to everything.  I reached out to Mom and I told the nurse that we wanted to know what the benefits and objectives were of the breathing therapy and we wanted to talk to someone.  We wanted to know if Daddy was dying.  My Mother and sister seemed relieved to have me there.  This is so hard for all of us.  They are exhausted.  I am running on adrenaline.

The nurse came back and reported that yes, he was dying.  I made the decision, with my Mom’s blessing, that there would be no more breathing therapies.  And that is the moment that all three of us were on the same page and knew the gravity of the situation.  We surrounded my Daddy, my Mom’s husband.  We held his hands and began to softly talk to him.  It was minutes, literally minutes and he peacefully died.

And then Daddy is gone.  He’s really gone.  You know how the movies portray the main character reaching up and closing their eyelids at death?  Well that is just bull shit because I reached up to close his eyes and it didn’t work.  They wouldn’t close.

Daddy and me
This is my Daddy and me at my wedding in 1972.

And this is where I find the sweet spot!

The usual stuff happens with nurses.  Blah, blah, blah!  And then my Mom assertively yet respectfully directs a nurse to bring her a washcloth and a bowl of warm water.  I remember looking at my sister with “what is this?”  She responds in kind.

My Mom begins to gently, calmly and lovingly wash her husband’s, my Daddy’s face, arms and legs!  It took awhile and during that time my sister and I literally clung to each other weeping silently and trembling, our bodies shaking.  It was the most loving act I have ever seen in my lifetime and I was overwhelmed with grief and love.  It is a wonder that my sister and I could stand.  I truly think it is because we were clinging to each other to support each other.

But here’s the thing.  At that moment, I promised myself that I would remember this moment when my Mother died.  I would pay it forward because it was the sweetest act of love that I had ever witnessed.  What a sweet spot!  

Paying It Forward!  That is the sweet spot or at least I thought!

Now my Mom is dying!  It’s December 2012, twelve years later.  Her birthday is in November.  As usual I go to celebrate her birthday and leave as if it is the last time I will see her.

My sister calls at the beginning of December and reports that Mom isn’t eating.  This is the beginning of the end.  We talk everyday about what’s going on.  My sister is the best at keeping me posted.  At about the tenth day she says to me, “I think she is waiting for you to come.”  So off I fly!

And this is the gift that I just realized at this moment in time that she gave me.  She also waited for me. That is the sweet spot.  I always thought the sweet spot was the next paragraph but it isn’t. It is that she also waited for me.  

Mom and Me
This is Mom and me at my youngest’s son’s wedding in June 2007.

And I kept my promise.

I asked the nursing home staff if I could help in preparing her body.  Thankfully they said yes without any questions and I have a new friend for life.  This sweet person asked me to pick out some pajamas and warm socks for her to travel in as she was being transported 3 hours to Spring City, TN.  Now really isn’t that just cool?  I followed her lead and we washed my Mom’s face, arms, and legs.  We put great smelling cream on her whole body and then dressed her in warm jammies and soft socks.  Softy and gently my tears flowed and dropped on my Mom.  Over and over again.  I talked and talked about the memories that she created for me and how grateful I felt and how much I loved her.

I covet your stories!

This ritual was never, ever shared or talked about in my family.  What are your stories?  I have never heard anyone talk about this kind of ritual.  I really want to hear from you!

3 Replies to “My Daddy is Dying.”

  1. What a tender, loving ritual to say goodbye. I could feel the ache of love in my heart as I read this beautiful story. I’m hopeful to be as present when grief comes to our family.


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