“I’ll be seeing you…”Billie Holiday
It was April 24, 2010. I was twenty years old. My dad was sick with pancreatic cancer and had just gone through his second major surgery in two years. Most of my days were spent between college classes and the hospital room in which I slowly watched my dad deteriorate.
On that warm spring day in April, I remember sitting at my kitchen table catching up on my college homework, while my mom was at the hospital and my boyfriend was at work. It was 3:30 in the afternoon and my phone began to ring. It was my mom – “I think you should come to the hospital. Dad is not doing good.” By the sound of her voice, I knew it was serious – yet I also did not realize what the rest of the day would entail.
I called my boyfriend, who drove my car to work that day. “I need you to come home and take me to the hospital – Dad is not doing well.” Without hesitation, he left work and drove the 45 minutes home.
By the time we arrived at the hospital it was around 5pm. When I walked in the room, I could see the difference and I knew something was wrong. He was not responsive and, according to the doctor, was on a high dose of morphine. I held his hand and told him I loved him. Within those fifteen minutes, his breathing began to slow down. I kept saying, “We need a nurse, something is not right”. I ran out and grabbed one. When she looked at him, she said “It won’t be much longer.”
With those words, a range of emotions went through me. No matter how much you know someone is at the end of their life, you are never prepared for that moment itself.
I spent the next five minutes watching as the breaths got slower and slower. His body was shutting down in front of my eyes, as his soul was preparing to move on. Breathing was shallow…then the last breath came…I watched his tongue as he breathed in and his body went limp. It was 5:20pm. Within twenty minutes of arriving at the hospital, my dad was gone.
I immediately dropped to the floor and screamed. My boyfriend leaned down and held me as I cried in disbelieve. I couldn’t even look at my mom because of the immense amount of pain I felt. Did this really just happen? Is my dad really gone?
I spent the rest of the night in a fog, yet to this day I remember odd details like what I was wearing, what food I ate, and what my dad looked like when I left that hospital room that day. My senses were heightened even though I felt like I was no longer in my body.
One of the last things I remember that day was picking up a picture frame I gave to my dad that said “Daddy’s Little Girl”. As I held the picture frame in my hand, I looked at the two of us and said, “I will always be daddy’s little girl”. All of a sudden, the lights flickered. Lights that have never flicked in the twenty years I have lived in that house. You can call it coincidence, but I call it my dad. It was a sign that no matter how far away he was, he was always going to be in my heart.
To this day, my mom questions if she did the right thing by calling me the day my dad passed away. My response? I was meant to be there. Dad waited for me. I would not take that away for anything. The hard part has been making peace with those last images of my dad in the hospital bed. While I am glad I was there, remembering him in that room is still hard for me to picture – even ten years later.
Watching a loved one pass for that reason is a very selfless act. We do it to help that person move on to their forever home in Heaven. But, for us, still on Earth, there is no amount of preparation that will help you with that moment you say goodbye.
What helps is making every day count up until that last day. Fill it with laughter, fill it with joy, tell stories, and say “I love you”.
When that day comes, remind yourself how strong you are and that it is okay to grieve. We need time to grieve in order to move on. You’ll feel numb, you’ll feel pain, and you’ll feel anger. Let yourself feel those emotions.
Then take a step back, fill yourself with the good memories, and say “I’ll be seeing you…”.
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