Early on Tuesday morning, when I heard the death rattle come, I knew that we had taken a turn for the worse. I knew in my heart that we didn’t have long. I drove to the house and picked up Kristen and drove back to the hospital as quick as I could. Letting those that loved him the most spend some time with him. Somewhere in the time that I first knew that we were loosing the battle and the quietness of the night when it was just he and I, a physical change happened.
Some moment I went into what my lovely daughter calls my “prickly pear” mode. As I watched him interact with his daughters, his son his granddaughter, her friends that loved him as much, the nurses, doctor, respiratory staff, and anyone else that happened into the room, the love and kindness that he showed each and everyone of them touched my heart. I could not shut down that love that we mirrored in each other. He looked at me at one point when it was just he and I and said, ” I don’t know, I don’t know if we are going to win this one Sugar.” I told him I knew and that it was going to be okay either way. He took my hand and held it telling me how much he loved me.
The prickly pear, it is a hard thing for me to describe. Up until this point in my life, in order for me to do this kind of shut down I have had to shut down EVERYONE. But I never did him. I came to realize over the few hours from midnight until 5:30 that we had been talking all along for some months. For many months I had a dream, I heard his voice and then there was a knocking at the door. All so real it would wake me from a deep sleep and I would go check on him and answer the front door. I walked in the hospital room one afternoon and he asked how I slept. I told him I had the dream again. Quickly, he explained to my sister that I was just having nightmares again. But both of us knew by this time that it was our communicating on the spiritual level, not a dream. As I laid upon the cot beside his bed, I took his hand. I never let it go until the nurses ushered me out of the room because I was trying to help clean up the body. I brushed his hair and began to change the linens and help wash his body. I don’t think they understood that at that point I was no longer daughter but caregiver. They were all hurting too for they had also come to love this gentle blue-eyed man that made them laugh.
The nurses aid that we had that night caught me on the way to the elevator. He hugged me tight and told me that he had to share something with me before I got away. “Thank you. Thank you so much for blessing each and every staff member on the floor tonight. We have each one stuck our head quietly in the door in turn. Checking on you. Each time, we were blessed at the sight of a loving, caring daughter sleeping next to a loving, caring man both never letting go of the others hand. Each time, you were both talking softly. I knew that you were both sleeping as I felt I was intruding in a private conversation. But as we listened to the two of you we knew that this was an ongoing conversation. One that spoke of great love, great pride, great compassion between the two of you. There was a genuine love and loss there. We have each in turn called our loved ones, told them of our own love for them. We have all cried at different times in the night for those that we have lost. We have talked at length of patients that have blessed our lives and not one of us has ever seen anything that blessed our lived more than this night.” He hugged me tight with tears in his eyes.
From the time that I left the hospital until last night, not a tear have I shed. Not loss have I felt. I have put my own feelings on hold to take care of everyone else. I am in sensory overload. The mental, the emotional have transformed into the physical. A simple hug takes on a painful aspect. I have to really prepare for someone to touch me. It is not that I don’t still love hugs, they just hurt too bad. I find myself comforting even strangers. I went in Allsups that Friday and Carol, the clerk, told me I didn’t seem my jovial self. I explained to her that I was sorry but that I had lost my father on Wednesday. Twenty minutes later after comforting her in the loss of her own father, letting her express her own fears, her own hurts, her own passions of death, she curled into my arms sobbing. This has been with most people that I have encountered. What is it about me that opens other peoples hearts and allows them to heal?
As for my own healing? It comes in the night usually. It comes at the end of a day that I have exerted so much energy that I fall into bed physically drained, physically hurting from hard labor. As I laid there crying myself to sleep a wash of thoughts took over and it wasn’t just my own pain that I cried for but for every person that I had come in contact with over the last week or so. Letting us all heal and giving each tear a name. My family is patient, for they know that I have to do this in my own way. They call frequently, asking “Are you okay yet?” I don’t know how to explain how I take in all the pain. I don’t know why I take in all the pain. I don’t know why it is so tied to the physical. It just is.
So please be patient. Please know that in some time as I exchanged the hurt and pain for that of love and friendship I will heal. I will get better and I will move forward. I will have moved mountains physically and begun to move forward. I, for the first time in my life have no chores really. I know that I still have John to take care of and I will but now I am seeking peace within my own heart, peace in where and what my next adventure is to be. There is an incredible peace in my heart and soul. Even though I feel lost and do not really know which way I am supposed to go, I know that I will end up where I am supposed to doing what I am supposed to. I know that my own spirituality has grown ten-fold in the last month and that my faith is stronger than it has ever been. That is saying something for my faith is strong.