This past week, I have been grappling with memories and mementos. Last year during my one week spring break, I sat in an ICU with dad and helped him transition from life to death. This year during my spring break, I have gone through boxes containing the memories of his life because his house has sold and everything had to be moved out of the home by the end of the month. Wow. Life is ironic.
Tonight is the anniversary of his last speaking moments on earth. I know. I stayed through the night with him in the hospital. I told him it would be our very own slumber party. You see, one year ago today dad had been removed from all support and the doctors were unable to tell us how long he would linger. Because my siblings and I had spent the previous days in the hospital, we had to divvy up the remaining nights so dad would never be without one of us. This first night was my night and I felt so very protective of this wonderful man.
Some say there is a ‘God Spot’ in our brain. Actually, it is spots. Spots that light up during brain scans when people ponder religion. Recently, I heard of another study where a certain area in the brain, when stimulated, creates a phenomena similar to a ‘near death’ experience. These scientific studies are very different from what I have actually experienced. While science is trying to explain near death experiences, I have actually lived through two.
Before I share my dad’s story, I need to let you know that death has not been a frightening topic in my family. In the 1940s my grandma had a near death experience. She died on the hospital operating table but was revived. She told the family and later all of her grandchildren that we should not fear death. She vividly recalled being lifted out of her body, sitting up in the corner of the surgery room and looking down at her body and the doctors and nurses working on her. She felt warmth, comfort and saw a light but felt she needed to return to her body because she was a single parent and my mom needed her. So she did. Throughout her life, she embraced each day and did not fear the future or dying.
Eighteen years ago, I was at my mom’s bedside when she died. Her last words assured us that passing from this life to death was not scary. She held our hands, talked about loved ones that were no longer here and then said, “Beautiful, beautiful” and was gone.
Dad and I were alone when he had his experience. As the night unfolded, I held his hand and recorded his words (for my siblings) to do justice to his journey. It all started a little after midnight as we went through a series of episodes over a 3 1/2 hour time span.
Dad: “Take me to the river.”
Me: “What dad?”
Dad: “Jordan… I am crossing the river… Zion.”
A while later
Dad: “There’s so much to do. I want to go to sleep and wake up and everything will be okay.”
Me: “I love you dad. I want that too.”
Dad: “The light changed. Could you send it on?”
Me: Speechless and with a kiss and a hug for this wonderful man.
Dad: “She is waving to you.”
Dad: “She is waving to you. Tell her hello.”
I looked to the corner of the room where dad was pointing and stood up and waved and said “Hello! Hello!” I wondered if I was waving to mom. With tears in my eyes I asked “Is that mom?”
Dad didn’t reply but soon greeted his mother, father and his Uncle Edwin and then struggled to breathe and to find peace.
It was 3:35 in the morning when I texted my husband two words, “Please come.” I am married to the most wonderful man. He jumped out of bed and came to the hospital and sat next to me with tears in his eyes as we said goodbye to my dad. My husband would have stayed with me throughout that night but the doctors felt this first night would be unremarkable so I sent him home at midnight. Those four hours dad and I spent together alone were full of love, tears, a little laughter and great, great sadness.
I have realized this past week, that while I have lost dad I am finding him again through the items he stored away. These items convey the spirit of my father. His laughter. His energy. His ingenuity. His silliness. His love. It enfolds me.
“The love of a family is life’s greatest blessing”