Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Loss

July 21, 2010 was the last day I saw my father alive.  I wrote a blog entry at 436am on July 22, 2010 because I had a lot on my mind about my dad and was extremely worried about his inability to breathe.  It bothered me when I saw him in the hospital on July 21st.  It was difficult watching him gasp for air as he removed his oxygen mask to eat his dinner.  It was painful for me to see him struggle to breathe.

By 815am on July 22, 2010 my father was dead.  My mother called me at work around 915am and told me that I needed to get to the hospital because they had called and told her that they thought dad had a heart attack and were working on him.  Thankfully, and I am forever thankful for this, my Judge drove me to the hospital.  I arrived before my mother and was informed by the managing nurse that dad was gone.  The hospital sent a taxi to pick up my mom because they didn't want her driving down to the hospital but they hadn't told her that he had died.  I couldn't believe it!  He wasn't supposed to die, he looked fine on July 21st.  The only issue was the breathing, otherwise his color had returned and he was eating real food and was able to keep it all down.  He was even watching TV and laughing at the show that was on.

By the time mom arrived, I had been there close to 40 minutes.  The hospital chaplain and social worker sat with me, which I am very appreciative of.  My dad's internist also sat with me while I waited for mom, her name is Dr. Crabtree.  She is very nice.  Actually everyone at the hospital was extremely nice!  When mom arrived, she saw me as Dr. Crabtree led her into the visitor waiting room and she knew.  It was all over my face.  I think I was more devastated for her, my father was the love of my mother's life.  They had been married 38 years and one month when he died.  It's rare that people stay together that long anymore and my parents had a really great love affair.

We were taken into dad's room to see him.  I can't really get the image of dad out of my head, his body laying there on the bed.  He was cold to the touch but I kept thinking that at any moment he'd take a deep breath and open his eyes and smile at us.  I kept thinking I saw his chest move, but then I'd blink and reality would set in again. my eyes were playing tricks on me.  My mother was able to call our good friend, CC, who contacted her son, Andrew and both came to the hospital.  Andrew got to us first, and it was really great having him there!  Dad's clinical drug trial oncologist, Dr. Henshaw, came and spoke to my mom about a recent CAT scan result -- dad's cancer had spread to his bones, there were tumors in his spine.  It seems the trial drug didn't work for him.

We started making phone calls.  Nana called my mom (because she had called her, right after the hospital called and Nana wasn't able to get the phone) and I told Nana that dad was gone.  She said for mom to call her later.  Then, mom had to call Granny Wheez (Louise, my dad's mother) and she hesitated.  I knew this was going to be a difficult call for her, and she dialed and got Louise on the phone but wasn't completely able to give Louise the details, so I took mom's phone from her and went into the hallway to tell Louise that dad, her son, was gone.  CC and Andrew also made calls to Steve (husband/dad) to let him know what happened and that mom was going to need his assistance with preparing for dad's funeral.

I also made some calls, during the course of the day both while we were at the hospital as well as once I got home.  I called my Judge and let him know that my father had died.  I then called my godparents, Charlie and Jan, and left messages for both of them.  That was a difficult call for me, the one to Charlie.  He's my father's best friend and I just couldn't believe I was delivering this kind of news to him.  I then called my best friend Christine, and left a message for her.  Her phone was off and I knew she was deeply involved in the funeral for her own mother, who passed away on July 15th.  I hated having to tell her my news.  I had purposely not told her that my father was in the hospital because I knew she was mourning the loss of her mother and I didn't want to stress her out.  I figured dad would get out of the hospital that Sunday, July 24th so there was no reason for me to stress her out.  Then, he was gone and I knew I had to tell her!  After Christine, I called Pastor Bruce and Mary, telling them about dad and giving them my mother's cellular and home phone numbers so they could get in touch with her about the service.

On July 23rd, thanks to CC's diligence, we went to an appointment at Olinger Mortuary.  CC had made several phone calls shortly after arriving at the hospital on July 22nd and she got a list together of people who would assist with the funeral at the USAFA cemetery.  So, we met with Stan, who was so compassionate and sincere and very helpful.  He was just very HUMAN!  It was a nice experience, working with him to pick dad's urn.  My father wanted to be cremated and we picked out a really beautiful urn, I think he would have really liked it if he had been picking it out himself.

I am so very grateful for the staff and doctors at Presbyterian-St. Lukes hospital.  They were very kind and gentle when delivering the news to both myself and my mother.  I am very glad that United Airlines gave my mother and CC special security passes so they could get to the gate to meet my sister when her flight landed.  I am so grateful for Stan at Olinger Mortuary, he was so nice!  I owe a huge thanks to Steve, CC and Andrew.  They've known us forever (Steve and Dad were classmates) and I think mom, my sis and I would have been lost without their help!

We buried my father on July 30th at the United States Air Force Academy cemetery.  He was buried with full military honors.  He received the 21 Gun Salute and Taps was played.  Even though we were authorized to have it, unfortunately the Missing Man flyby did not happen.  My mother was given the US flag and the commander who gave it to her said "On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation it is my honor to present you with this US flag" and he saluted her.  That broke my heart!  My mother is a widow!  Of all the things in this world that I think are grossly unfair, the biggest is that my mother is a widow at the age of 61!

I knew that one day my father would die.  It's part of our life cycle: birth, growth, death.  I just didn't think he'd be gone this quickly or suddenly.  He looked fine Wednesday night when I saw him.  I thought we had a few more years with him.  I was really looking forward to telling him how I did in a writing contest I entered (I won't know where I stand until October/November).  I was hoping to see him play with at least one grandchild (neither my sister nor I have children yet).  I wanted to throw a huge 40th Wedding Anniversary party for my parents.  I just thought I had more time with him.

It's been a difficult month.  I'm not doing okay, although I tell people that I am.  I am pretty damn good actress, I should get a freaking Oscar!  I'm going to go see a counselor and I know it will help.  I do need help with my grief.  I need to heal.
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