Lost and then Found

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.”
Me: “What?”
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”

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23 thoughts on “Lost and then Found”

  1. This piece has me in tears. How fortunate you are to have such wonderful family members who instilled in you a sense of fearlessness about death and life. I think you just made us all a little more comfortable with the concept.

    1. I do feel fortunate that my family has been so open and accepting about life and death. What a gift, to view end of life as another journey to be shared with those you love.

  2. We lost my mom last month, so the hurt is still fresh, but she had done all she could to make it easy for us. It was typical of her–always thinking of other people–and for us the gratitude for having had her all those years far outshines the grief at losing her now. As it should be.

    It sounds as if yours is that kind of family too. Great post.

    1. I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Isn’t it amazing how our parents help us even to the end. As I sat with dad that night he would lift his hand and stroke my head or pat my hand to give me comfort. What a gift. I will never forget it.

  3. Wow. Ok, first of all, good writing – you brought me into your story, brought tears into my eyes, yet you did not manipulate or force emotion – your simple story was enough.

    And second of all, wow that you were willing to share this with us. My parents are getting older and my mom’s heart is very bad so I am stealing myself that her end could come at any time. I have wondered if I’ll be able to blog about it when the time comes. I think that you have given me my answer.

    Thank you for sharing such a precious time with us.

    1. My thoughts are with you as you travel this journey with your parents. I have kept the words of that night on my laptop and have been afraid I would lose them…so it was time to write the story and release the angst.

  4. What a beautiful story you shared! Thank you. I was not with my father when he died, but my mom and brother were, and I know it was what he wanted, to be at home, with family near.
    How fortunate you were, to have such a family legacy of nuturing and love. That is a gift that is priceless, and one that keeps giving, just as you say, in the memories and love you still experience. ~ Sheila

  5. So beautifully written; thank you so much for sharing these intimacies with us. Doing so has blessed me and I know it will do the same for others.

    I love that you are finding your Dad again, through the items he saved through the years.

    Hugs
    MJ

  6. Sharing that precious memory with us has not only moved but inspired us. You are so lucky that you had a wonderful life with your father right to the very end.

  7. Thank you for sharing. It made me think of my father’s last hours but, unfortunately, we were unable to communicate with him. Even after nine years I still cry when I think of him.

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