Sunday, June 12, 2011
My Father's Smile
Today we put Dad in a hospice care home. It was too much for Mom to have him at their own home any longer. At 80, she has been heroic in her care for him since he was diagnosed last fall with Lymphoma of the bone marrow - all the time, taking care of the home, the laundry, the shopping, and more recently, the cooking. We knew when Dad stopped cooking and baking bread, his days were numbered. Today, for the first time in his life, he did not want to get dressed. He always has dressed thoughtfully, thinking about how his shirt will look with his pants. His own mother taught him to do that. When Dad didn't want to get dressed today, Mom knew something had changed.
It is so hard to write this. I don't even know if I should. But, then I think that everyone either has or will go through this. It isn't a secret that we die. It isn't something to be ashamed of. I have learned that it is a profound experience to witness and move through the death of someone so eternally close to you. I couldn't have imagined. Birth and Death are so yin and yang - so painfully and preciously complementary.
The last few days at home, his pain was so deep and unrelenting at times, that we would hear him breathing with a kind of moan on the outbreath. It was private. He was not grandstanding. It is the real deal. The only thing I could compare it to is the labor of childbirth - how the breath is used to take the attention off the pain and somehow move through it, to accept it. Dad said today, when I asked him how he was at one point, he smiled at me and said, "You just accept it."
What is most remarkable to me is this. In this unimaginable pain - of a raging cancer in the bone, with tumors jutting out of his fragile chest, with numbness and pain so deep into his body cavities, I cannot talk about it, he is still able to smile and say "Thank you."
When I was there this weekend, I asked, "Dad, would you like to join us on the patio for wine?"(What a stupid question, I soon realized. He can no longer move about safely.)
He smiled at me fully. "No, honey."
I began to walk out the door.
"But...thank you," he said.
Later, when I went to tuck him for the night, laying there so broken and fragile, I held his hand. "I hope you have a peaceful night," I said.
"I'm sorry to put you through this," was his reply.
I told him how honored I am to go through this with him. He is not bitter, or niggling, or angry. He has been courageous, patient, and grateful through the entire process. He has shown me not only how to live, but how to die. I am one lucky girl.