My father’s last pencil box. It will remain untouched. It contains his favorite drawing tools like the black pencil crayon and his instant coffee spoon and his rolled up hand towel that he used to brush eraser bits away.
I went into Staples today and felt the weight of missing Dad. He and I loved shopping for stationary together.
I miss our coffee dates and his to-do lists, but I am ready for the next chapter. Ready to keep going.
In keeping with Dad’s wishes, I documented our last day together.
I came up early in the morning yesterday and spent some hours by myself with Dad before the rest of the family arrived for our daily vigil.
I set up the space I had an intense need to offer some kind of guidance for him.
I played the following video for Dad. We were not interrupted and it was very powerful:
My father’s feet showed signs of mottling, so I had a lovely gentle conversation with the nurse and we inspected him and nodded silently to each other. Dad continued his rhythmic breathing. interrupted here and there with some abrupt harsh intakes of breath. His heart beat on, but there were arrhythmic moments and his pulse was weak.
His senses were shutting down. Hearing though may be one of the last things to go.
I felt he needed to hear more gentle guidance, so I played him Swedish lullabies into his left ear, sung by his favorite actor, Allan Edwall:
The family arrived and we spent another beautiful day together.
We played some of Dad’s favorite Swedish comedy and some of his favorite Disney movies:
Staff came in regularly to tend him and to check in. The doctor felt Dad could hang on another two weeks. I was confused as it did not feel right intuitively, and felt a panic well up. I did not want Dad to suffer any more.
We had a lot of family discussions and then we packed up around 8:00/8:30 PM and turned off the lights except for the Christmas lights and diffuser. Dad was peaceful and apparently painfree. I sensed he needed time to concentrate and to complete the journey on his own.
15 minutes after we left, care aide Kim went in and checked on him and he was still breathing. Then care aide Mike went in and discovered that Dad had stopped breathing. I received the call as my son and I bit into our dinner at Burgoo.
We quickly headed up and when we walked into the room, Dad was surrounded by his beloved caregivers. They had tended him so beautifully.
My son Julian, my brother Fredrik, my brother Anders and my sister-in-law Charmaine and I sat for an hour talking, laughing, sighing, breathing, planning, sharing shots of Dad’s whiskey in his honor. Dad’s “baby,” Tobey, lay on Dad’s legs as we awaited the transfer of Dad’s body.
Today we will be sorting his room. I am filled with joy, relief, love, sadness and all the beautiful emotions a daughter can feel losing her beloved father. I have also lost my best friend and I sense that once the numbness wears off, I will experience intense loss in this regard, but I accept and welcome it for I am so lucky to have had such a friendship.
Simply being a loving presence near the person, holding their hand, sending loving thoughts, silently praying, meditating, just being there for them provides a comforting, safe and peaceful atmosphere that facilitates the person’s inner work. [source]
I organized all his artwork today and went through his shelves. I found an old journal Dad kept 2007-2008. It’s filled with gems- accounts of his life at Evergreen House. I will start sharing it soon. It’s delightful, heartwarming, bitter, warm, funny.
Laughter opens the heart and can free one to see past appearances and circumstances, leaving the burden of self and entering into a instant oneness with another, that is blissfully rewarding. [source]
We remain at Dad’s bedside. Today was a peaceful day for him. His medication was increased so he is not in as much pain as yesterday. Only when he is moved. Other than that, he sleeps soundly with a strong heartbeat. He’s a fighter.
We have become gypsies, tziganes, a family in need to set up camp to support each other and to surround Dad with love and the sounds of life.
We are not so much waiting to be with Dad at the moment he lets out that last breath, as we are showing him we are LIVING and LOVING and MOVING INTO OUR FUTURE and showing him our GRATITUDE. It is also an opportunity to bond as a family and re-process losing our mom in November 2008.
I have cried a lot and I expect to cry a lot more, and I anticipate intense MISSING. But today I laughed a lot. Laughed at my little family as we maintain our camp and cocoon ourselves in room 207 from morning to evening.
At the end of the day, we turn off the lights except for the Christmas lights and the diffuser. The extraordinary staff will be visiting him all night, and we are happy allowing them their time to share their love and gratitude.
My Dad is a consummate documentarian. This has always been part of his artistic expression. His photo albums, since his teenage years, are detailed accounts of his life and adventures.
I promised him to keep taking photos during this final chapter. Dad is winding down now. Dad’s breathing continues, slow, deep, intermittent. He is surrounded by love.
I spent a quiet evening by myself with Dad last night, cleaning his room, reading a Swedish children’s book to him and, as he asked, taking photos. I get it. It feels empowering to strip away the filter of fear and truly SEE the beauty of the journey.