After Dad passed away...
My father passed away in February 2020 – right before the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As I write these words, I envision a time when the person reading this wonders , “What was the COVID-19 pandemic?” In the early morning hours I received a call that he had passed away. The last few days he had been sleeping most of the time and when I was there the evening before he refused to let the Hospice Nurse bath him. When I arrived at 3:30 a.m., my mom was packing up her clothes and was almost finished. I asked her what she was doing, and the reply was, “Packing up to go home, since your dad is no longer with us there is no reason for me to be here and I am ready to go home”. How are you supposed to respond to a statement like that? I simply told her we had plenty of time for that for now we had to start taking care of funeral arrangements.
After 3 years of countless visits to the ER and many hospitalizations his body had finally let go. Friends always try to say things to encourage you, but I’ve decided that some sentiments aren’t helpful. For instance, I heard several times, “God just isn’t really for him yet – he still has work to do here on earth”. I know that was meant to be a comfort, but it wasn’t. It’s hard to see that as a true statement when he was barely surviving – he was on a walker, on oxygen, not driving, simply existed each day within the confines of his home.
I don’t think Mom ever realized she would never see her home again. Dad was released from the hospital in August of 2019 straight into assisted living. He was so weak and he refused to participate in rehab. The nurses tried but he simply would not even try. He never got out of the hospital bed after arriving. I still find it hard to believed that his body continued to survive another 6 months. He was back in the hospital during Christmas, then 2 other ER visits until I finally convinced him it was time for Hospice. I had always assumed Hospice was only for your last few weeks or days. I learned that was a very wrong misconception. I wish I had known earlier and could have received their knowledge, help and love.
In the weeks that followed every time I would visit mom she was completely packed up and she was angry. Dad was dead, she was fine, and she wanted to go home and did not understand why they and I would not let her. Yes, that’s a direct quote. The COVID shutdown was actually a blessing to us – she became accustomed to that being her home and when we spoke on the phone or with Facetime she did not mention leaving.
The world of visiting has changed, and it is good for our family.
We were able to set up a zoom meeting with the counselor, mom and my sister was able to attend from Florida. We did a window visit – neither of us liked that. It was very loud and there was another family visiting beside us. We are now set up with weekly Facetime visits one for me and a different time for my sister. Mom will talk a bit, she still knows me but sometimes can’t remember the names of my children or grandchildren, she repeats questions and I answer the same every time, and she never remembers there is a pandemic going on. When she’s done she just says “Bye, I’m going back to my room now”. I cannot salute the health care workers enough. These warriors are worried about their health, their families and yet continue to love and care for ours.
A year has gone by and sometimes when I'm out I think - I've got to go by and check on mom and dad. Then I realize those days are over. I get mixed emotions when I drive by the hospital. I dreaded each visit - you turn into a zombie when you are on the revolving ER carousel. Yet, I am so thankful for the staff that always took great care of every family member and me. I've put all of those feelings on the back burner this last year. I've cried, I've slept and rested, I've taken trips alone to the beach. I almost feel guilty now when I see others going through the struggle that was my life for so long. Now that I am on the other side I hope these words can bring comfort to those walking the Caregiver path.