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The following are some thoughts that I composed as I sat by my father’s bedside Dad Lobbyin October of 2010, at the Lake Erie Facility of the Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio. At one point I did a watercolor painting of him which has come out too light to photograph. He was very gaunt at the time and slept much of his last days.
I’ve peppered this story with photos of him just a month prior to going into Hospice. I had him doing some artwork which I framed and hung on his walls in the memory care unit of the nursing home he lived in at the time. My thoughts are unfinished, because an uncle came into the room for a visit and I never got back to those in-depth moments to get in touch with my thoughts and feelings. He died that night as well while my sister and her husband were there. It was her prayer that she would be there when he died, and God granted her request.

After having gone through this experience with my father and also the death of my mother, I’ve come to believe my own thoughts that:

“They birth us, and we bury them. And they got the better deal!” 

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What is it like to watch someone die?

As I sit next to my father’s bed in a private room in a well known hospice facility, I watch and listen for signs of continued life. Breathing, gasping, coughing, limbs moving, warm skin, veins pumping blood, eyes opening and closing, and any other sign that he is still here.

The occasional administering of medication to keep him comfortable and painfree by the nurses, brings welcome comfort not only to him buy family as well. I is a relief knowing that his suffering is minimal. In my older years, I have wondered what it was like to die. How would it happen? When would it happen? What would be involved prior to it happening?

I’ve attended the funerals of family and friends beginning around 5 years old when my mother’s grandmother died, but it was always after the fact. Now as I sit with my father, watching him in his final days, it is a new experience of my 58 year life. I was not with my mother as she declined and died, but I prayed her into heaven the moment she took her last breath. She in a nursing home and I in my own bed at home. I was suddenly awakened by an impulse to pray strongly for God to remove her suffering and take her to heaven. I learned later that she died at that very moment.

Dad Dinner TongueSo now I sit quietly watching my father breathe and occasionally cough fluids out of his lungs and slightly flail his arms as if trying to escape something or free himself. His hand hot as I stroke it, and his grip strong as he squeezes my fingers inside his palm. Unable to communicate verbally or put words and thoughts together or see anymore, he is still a man, a father, a person, and still here for now.
I notice his gaunt face, almost skeletal, but still with a hint of handsomeness left, and his bald head that lately had started to grow new peach fuzz. A funny thought occurs to me. Could it be that one of the drugs he has been given, doubles as a cure for baldness? Could it be Halidol, Seraquil, or Atavand? Could it be one of the  pain medications perhaps?
As I wax philosophical, I am jerked into the reality that his body is shutting down. The perfectly timed normal functions, unable to receive messages from the brain, are malfunctioning and dieing. Eighty-five years of perfect timing, a few months short of eighty-six, slowly progressing towards a permanent halt. At some future point they will have nothing more to give.
His moment by moment occupation now is to progress towards another reality, a heavenly and eternal one. The gestault of his current physiology will give way to a new and perfect reality in a world where there are no tears, no pain, no hell, and no suffering. A place of promise, hope, unending love, and the gestault reality of the presence of God.
As I strive to ponder and understand his present experience while grasping the future that awaits him, I can hear the whir of some type of equipment through the wall in the next room. A quiet hum resembling a Charles drawing in chairvacuum cleaner, voices in the hall, and the sight of the therapy dog’s tail who has just passed by. All of these things that would seem to distract me from my mission and vigil of watching and waiting.

When will I see his chest raise and lower for the last time? What will I think? How will I feel? And will I cry? I’m grateful for this experience – its intimacy – its reality. Momentarily my attention turns to thinking of other families, waiting and watching with their loved ones as well. Isolated in their individual realities yet connected by the common theme of death. How many will have a place on the other side? How many can die peacefully, knowing that something more grand awaits them on the other side? And arms stronger than they’ve ever known wait to embrace them in that future reality and new life.

I grieve for those without that future and rejoice with those who have obtained it. Knowing one’s future in the heavenly realm, makes all the difference in accepting physical death. It gives us the ability to fully and wholeheartedly embrace the next life.

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My Father’s Artwork
Charles cat crosshatch drawing2 Charles crosshatch drawing2
Dad Abstract Painting Dad Shell Sculpture
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