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The Beginning of the End

I had been keeping an eye on my dad through the cameras in his room and I knew that his hospice nurse was going to see him again that Friday morning and I was sure he would be put back on daily visits. This was during COVID and the nursing homes, assisted living centers and memory care centers were all on lockdown And I was working from home. My phone rang at 7:33 that morning but it wasn’t the hospice nurse it was Billie, the memory care director. She told me I needed to head over there. I told her I’d get my shoes on and be there shortly. I told Kevin I was headed to Franklin Park. I made it there in about 15 minutes and called Mary (my boss) along the way to let her know what was going on and that I would be available by phone and have my computer with me.

I knew dad had been declining as the days went by and I was so thankful that I was able to get in to be there with him. The staff that was caring for him were phenomenal but having family there is important as well. I stayed by his side all day long, only stepping out briefly to stretch my legs every now and then. I straightened out his armoire and nightstand to keep busy. I'm glad I did that because the ring of his that had been missing was found in one of the drawers!

Early that evening I opened up the Bible app on my phone to read the verse of the day and it was the one that I had chosen for the scripture reading for dad's memorial service. Psalm 34:18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. I also took the time to work on the eulogy that I would give at his service. I had been thinking about his memorial service for a couple months and knew now that I would need to plan for it sooner rather than later. I stayed there with him until about 9:30 that night and left not knowing if I would get a phone call in the middle of the night saying he was gone but I gave him a hug and a kiss and said I would see him in the morning.

Saturday morning, May 16, 2020 I got up and got ready to head out the door. I checked the camera feed in dad's room and saw Melissa, one of the caregivers, in there on the phone and figured she was on the phone with Billie. I texted Billie and told her to that I figured it was her on the phone with Melissa and to let her know I would be there in a little while. Billie fussed at me to take my time and make sure to take care of myself too.

I got there about 7:15 and texted Billie to let her know I was there and that he looked pretty much like he did when I left the night before. I sat with him, held his hands, talked to him about anything and everything. I told him that even though we would all miss him greatly it was okay for him to let go. He had his eyes open more on Saturday than he did on Friday and there was some reaction to my voice off and on. The staff made sure to check in not just on dad like they were supposed to but on me as well. They made sure that I had something to eat while I was there with him. The hospice weekend nurse came by on Saturday afternoon and checked in on him. I wasn't too thrilled with him, I think he came back to work after his own personal loss too quickly but we at least got dad's vitals. Everyone that had been in and out of his room to check in on him made a comment about how comfortable he looked. Billie and I agreed that maybe he just got tired of staying up at night and was catching up on sleep 😊

Billie checked in on me at one point because she said I got awfully quiet. I told her I'm definitely my father's daughter, when I get focused on something I keep at it. I was working on my computer to keep my mind busy but still be able to be tuned in to him across the room. It was a long day of not really doing much other than sitting in his room, sometimes next to his bed and sometimes across the room. We had music on the entire time and I would talk to him quite a bit. I gave both Megan and Tyler the option to come up and see him one more time but both chose not to. Kelsie was up in Waxahachie and had seen him the weekend before. Once again I stayed until about 9:30 that night and did my normal routine of a hug and kiss before I left and told him I would see him in the morning. I told Melissa goodbye and that I'd see her about the same time again on Sunday morning.

Sunday, May 17, 2020, my dad's last full day. I woke up about 4:30 and started laundry at home before I headed over to Franklin Park because I knew it would be a long day again. I got there about 7:15 and I did my daily text check in with Billie who had become like the sister I never had. I once again brought work with me so I could keep busy. I also had the photo books that I had made from my vacations that I would look through and even though dad wasn't looking at them I would talk to him about the pictures and tell him about the trips. I would also look through the books I made with family photos in them and talk about those. It was hard to sit there and watch the man who raised me lay in that hospital bed slip away but I knew he was going to a better place and would be better off.

The weekend hospice nurse came in close to 1:30 that afternoon, I liked this one, and got all the information he needed. Not only did he talk to me while he was there, he told dad everything he was doing as he did it. He let me know he figured based on signs he was seeing dad had hours to a day or two at the most left. I asked if we should cut back on the oxygen amount and he said he would turn it off completely. He also said he should go fairly quickly afterwards.

I let Billie know what he said and asked her to come up. I called Kevin and asked him to come over as well and Tai, one of dad's weekday caregivers, called me to see if it was okay if she came too. We all sat there together with him talking about his time there. Billie and Tai told us a few stories about things he had done. I excused myself to go to the restroom about 5:15 after talking to Billie about what it would be like for him if I did turn off the oxygen. She reassured me he wouldn't feel any pain and that when he did pass he would probably take one last deep breath and then be gone. At about 5:30 I told her to go ahead and turn it off. His oxygen level at that point was only 42 and his pulse was 87. Tai stayed for a little while longer then headed home but not before she told him "see you later handsome". I told Kevin he didn't have to stay and he headed home about 7:15. Billie stayed there with me until about 9:45 that night. We all knew his time was drawing near and I made the call that I wasn't going to leave that night.

Melissa and Salitria stopped by about 10:15 on their way out after their shift was over to say their goodbyes since neither one would be back until the following weekend. Earlier in the day Jean had texted Billie checking in on him and I had been texting Cindy and Ursula. I believe Tai had said she let Barbara know how he was also. Dad definitely made an impression on the staff at Franklin Park and would be missed.

Julianna came by when she came on shift just after 10:00 and Yvonne came by a little while later. They made sure he was comfortable and checked on me as well. Overall he seemed comfortable until his meds were starting to wear off. Between 11:00 and 11:30 he started to moan some so I went and found Julianna to get the med tech to give him his meds early. She got there, gave him his meds, eye drops, they repositioned him, cleaned him up and got him settled back in by about 11:50. I tried to see if the pulse oximeter would take a reading but it wouldn't on either hand, they were just too cold. I sat there next to his bed not wanting to move away and not wanting to fall asleep. So I started typing into my phone my abbreviated recollection of his last day. Here is part of that entry...

"Here it is 1:13, I'm afraid to go to sleep. I don't want him to die without me by his side. I know I would be in the same room but I wouldn't be sitting next to him. I guess if he can fit the recliner in the bathroom I could move it next to the bed, maybe after they come in and reposition him and do everything this next time I'll do that. I want to be there for him. I wasn't there for mom but I can be there for him."

So I sat there in a chair until about 3:00 when Julianna came in and we talked for a little bit and I sat down in a chair away from dad's bed and was looking through and talking to her about one of photo books as we waited for Yvonne to get there to help reposition dad. Then at 3:33 I looked up and over at him and saw him take this deep breath and then there was nothing. I immediately went over to him. I tried to call Billie but for some reason I couldn't dial out, I had to completely turn my phone off and back on to get a signal. Julianna was able to call but had to leave a message and then my phone came back on and I was able to call her and got through. All I said when she answered was...

"He's gone."