On Saturday morning, I got the call that we were moving to the hospice facility. I immediately began packing a duffle because we were all in. My mom, sister, and I would be sleeping in my dad’s room and living there till the end. If there’s anything we’ve learned over the years, you do NOT leave one of your own in their time of need. We’d been there with dogs and cats as they crossed the rainbow bridge, my mom and I stayed in hospice with my Mema just 2 years prior. It’s just what we did and it’s what I’ll continue to do for the rest of my life.
The hospice facility had two sides of rooms. While all were beautiful, only one side backs up to Kennesaw Mountain, one of Dad’s favorite spots in our town. We were told all mountain side rooms were taken, so the parking lot side was our option. However, I believe God gives you what you need. And He did that day. Sadly, in this place, you know why a room becomes available. But we were thankful that Room 10, overlooking the mountain, became our home. It had a porch, French doors, two beautiful rocking chairs, and was next door to the patio area where we welcomed visitors. It was the perfect set up for the worst situation.
When we arrived, Dad was in an enormous amount of pain from his transfer. He was behind in medication and it was going to take a few doses to get him comfortable. One thing I have always loved about my Dad was his kindness and respect for everyone. Once his pain subsided, he asked for his nurse again. When she came in, he extended his hand…
“Hi, I’m sorry. I think we got off to a rocky start. I’m Scott, what was your name?”
I could tell that she had never heard such an apology. Especially coming from someone who was also coming to terms with their final days on Earth.
“Susan,” she said with a smile. “It’s so nice to meet you.”
The next two days were spent getting acquainted with the facility. Our friends and family visited and participated in a meal train so that we never had to leave for food. It was the sweetest gesture and the company gave us the laughs we needed to get through the next hour. On Sunday night, I was asleep in the recliner next to Dad’s bed and the nurses came in to clean him up. I wish this was a happy moment, but I woke to the sounds of his discomfort, wishing it would stop. I held his hand and we both cried because of his pain. I wanted to take it away for him, but I couldn’t. As the nurses left, I got an alert on my phone. A shooter in Las Vegas took the lives and injured many at a country music festival. We turned the tv on and Dad whispered “can you believe it?”
I replied no, shaking my head. It was awful.
Then I heard Dad sing softly “Do you believe in magic?”
Again, here he was lifting the mood. Trying to cheer others up when he was the one going through the worst. He’d been in so much pain again, but put it aside to bring comfort to us as we all sat watching the breaking news unfold. My hero.
Monday brought more guests sporadically, so it was nice to have quiet moments of reflection on the porch. Dad used the last bits of strength he had for first pumps anytime someone asked about our beloved Ohio State Buckeyes. The weather was amazing, it was the first weekend that the temperatures dipped to a beautiful 60* and the breeze was perfect. With the French doors open, I would watch Dad sleep and study his methodical moves of his hands. Always placing one gently on his chest, the other on his lap. Every so often they would trade places and he’d be asleep again. I knew we were getting close by the increase in long naps. I hated we were there, I wished it all away, but then I’d look at him and pray it wouldn’t last long. That was his only request to the palliative care doctor at the hospital. He just didn’t want it drawn out.
That night was quiet, not a lot of nurse interruptions. No nighttime visitors. Mom, Kelsey and I talked about everything we could think of. We cried about our future and the unknown, laughed discussing our favorite stories, and even ignored our situation altogether with gossip sessions from social media. It was all we could do to get ourselves to sleep.
If only we had known that it was our last night with Dad.