My father died at 16:30 today.
He was surrounded by loved ones, appeared not to be in pain, and every loose end I can imagine had long since been wrapped up; the prgnosis was known 4 years ago. His last days were peaceful (excepting the steady flow of guests, which he relished). He and his wife Julie displayed dignity and grace that I find inspirational. Everything about his passing was “right” except the timing, he was only 61.
I had expressed before that being present was not an important issue for me. In hindsight, I am very glad that I was, though. Being there for the last hours brought closure that might never have been available otherwise. Feeling his hand go cold as his heart weakened and was unable to push blood through extremities was difficult but suspecting that he was able to feel the touch until he lost sensation is worth it. I’m inexplicably confident that he was aware of my presence and even comprehended some of my speech earlier in the afternoon, and hope that our talking, joking, and prayers brought him mental comfort.
Unfortunately, watching also brought vivid memories of the event that lead to my insomnia now. Lying in bed and trying to breathe peacefully, it is impossible to drive out the images of his last breaths: pushing for each one through the rattle of fluids and the prayer card on his chest fluttering to his rapid heartbeat. I suspect I will most strongly remember when he was unable to keep his eyes shut, and Julie placed an eyeshade over them; I had immediately begun worrying about the photophobia that we share. My habit of placing a pillow over my eyes while sleeping has always reminded me of Dad, but tonight that connection makes it impossible to rest.