Just when I felt I was recovering from an extended illness my Dad’s health got worse and he ended up in hospital. I spent a lot of time supporting and being there every day. Riding my bicycle to the hospital after work, catching the lift up and walking through corridors that became very familiar.
Talking with him when he was lucid, but mostly just holding his hand and taking the time to be present. Much of the time I didn’t know what to say. Sometimes helping his partner deal with the hospital staff, and talking directly with them to understand what exactly was going on.
He couldn’t wait to get out of that space. Many of the staff were great, but many treated a frail, elderly person as if they were just waiting for them to die. And the medical system has failed him in the past. Now the Parkinson’s symptoms had become quite limiting. The heart disease and liver damage had made controlling all his health symptoms with medication impossible.
Eventually he went home after they had drained his lungs and installed a pacemaker. I spent a lot of time with him again, including transporting him to medical appointments each week. I certainly got to understand his health in detail! Picked up medical aids, fixed trip hazards in the flooring, installed shower changes and handrails in the toilet to help with basic living functions. Even though he was only occasionally lucid, his partner told me how thankful he was after I had been around.
But he stayed frail and passed away early on Christmas Eve 2013. I was awoken by a phone call around 1am and called to the house by his partner. I arrived to the ambulance staff working to resuscitate him. Eventually there were middle of the night dealings with the Police, funeral staff and comforting his partner.
Laying there in the hallway of the home I grew up in, I could see he was finally at peace. The two of us dressed him, said goodbye for now, and helped him onto the funeral staff’s trolley. He was laid to rest on New Year’s eve, his birthday, one week later. I don’t remember Christmas that year, all I remember is his death. I barely shed a tear. I was in function and get everyone through this mode.
And now, I have the opportunity to remember him. To keep him alive in my heart. To be with him again in my dreams. To not dwell on the suffering, to remember the active young man he once was.
When memories are all you have, they shine brighter than ever before.