Sunday, October 4, 2009

Deathdays and Birthdays

Today is the first anniversary of my father-in-law’s death. Less than two weeks ago we celebrated what would have been his 78th birthday with his favorite flavor of ice-cream, chocolate chip. He never liked cake, so there was none on his birthday.

It’s hard to believe a year has passed, and along with it all of those firsts. The first Thanksgiving without him, the first Christmas, his and my mother-in-law’s anniversary in May. With all of those firsts out of the way I think the shock of his absence is lessened. Now there is mostly that bittersweet feeling of loving and missing.

Up until 2004 my in-laws lived less than a 10-minute drive away from us. But that fall they got a wild hare to move out of state, to Arkansas of all places. They enjoyed it there some, I’m sure, but my father-in-law’s health became more and more of an issue and in the summer of 2008 they decided it was time to come back. On September 3, 2008, my husband got on a plane to help them pack up and drive to California, and I stayed home with the kids to get our little house ready to hold 2 more people. The house has done quite well, I must say. It’s a good, flexible house.

On Wednesday September 17, 2008, my husband and his parents finally pulled into our driveway. Their trip west was an exhausting one fraught with tornados and the challenges of traveling with a very sick old man. On Friday, September 19, he was admitted to a local hospital with congestive heart failure. He spent his last birthday in the hospital on September 24, but he was released on the 26th and we celebrated his birthday with him the following day. The day after that, Sunday September 28, we called 911 and he was back in the hospital. Late in the night on October 3, the hospital called and said that his breathing had changed, if we wanted to be there for him, it was time. I was unable to wake my husband or my mother-in-law; they were so exhausted from everything. I called my mom to come over in case the kids woke up and I drove to the hospital.

I held his hand. I read Psalm 23 out loud from the bible in the bedside table. It wasn’t the King James Version though, that one is the best for Psalm 23. I told him that we would take care of his wife and that we would miss him, that we would always love him. There was no death rattle. His nearly imperceptible breathing became harder and harder to witness, and when I hadn’t seen his chest rise and fall for a few moments, I went and got the nurse and said I thought he was gone. By that time it was sometime after 1 AM on October 4.

The week following his death was one of the hardest, if not the hardest week, my family has ever experienced. When the funeral was done and over, my mother-in-law was sick from exhaustion. The day after his funeral, we celebrated my birthday and thus began this first year without him.


Ms. Moon said...

I am so glad you were with him and helping midwife him into that other place.
You are a precious soul.

Petit fleur said...

He sounds like a wonderful guy, and very lucky that you could be with him. I believe that people still know everything that is going on around them when they are dying... even if they can't say it because they are busy crossing. Sounds like it was a lovely send off.
pf ps I will think of this story next time I have chock chip ice cream. :-)

Sarcastic Bastard said...

I'm so sorry, but you were a good kid to stay with him. He looked like he was a kind man. He had a sweet face.

Sending you love,