Well yes, we did see the sunset…
and the sunrise…
and my father got to see one and helped to make the other.
My Dad died this morning.
After the massive trauma from his wicked fall led emergency brain surgery to relieve a brain bleed last saturday night. We will hopefully look back and see that he spent a mercifully short time in the SICU while his caregivers, children and close friends came together as one to provide the best care and hope for the best outcome. Tonight I know we did both.
Every single one of his family played a vital role in helping Dad ease out of his pain and into the light.
Last night, in between the raindrops and the late late night dark, we followed a small white van from the hospital through the deserted streets lined with palm trees and stucco walls and back down the long lane to the quiet back door of the hospice house. They settled him into the first room on the left and quickly and gently removed all but the essential palliative care.
Pat took the recliner by his side and they wheeled a cot in for me and together we sat the vigil. His deep steady breaths were almost drowned out by the roaring of an air conditioner…almost. I kept pace all night with his rhythm listening for too long a pause. I might have slept but for the settling fears. After hours of phone calls to keep all the siblings up to date on the situation which seemed to change hourly, the roller coaster ride had come to an end and we were left to stand by as witnesses to the transition.
When the dawn began to light up the dark and somber room I peeked out to see a small lake and some sweet green grass. i got up and walked the long empty corridor and wondered how well I would come to know the pattern in it’s carpet.
I walked back to our room and woke Pat and we decided that since Dad had been stable for hours we might have a window of respite to go to his apartment refuel and regroup.
I held his hand and told him that his plane was ready and the this time He gets to be the pilot and if he decided to fly away while I was gone it was A OK with me but to make sure to wave as he flew by.
In a very short time we had picked up his ipad to bring him his music and the Whinnie the Pooh story I was reading him in the hospital, washed ourselves up and gathered our meds with the plan to stay by his side as long as needed.
With our hand on the doorknob to leave the phone rang and it was the nurse telling us his breathing was irregular and we were there within 15 minutes.
He was already gone.
I wept with tears of sadness and joy and thanked him for the very great gift of not having to watch the sometimes gravely bits at the end…and the relief that his suffering was over.
The first sign he was ok was the hand waving in the car driving into hospice as we were driving out…Bill Forbes was coming to visit not having heard. We hugged between the two cars and he made us follow him to get something to eat where Martha, his wife joined us and we wept and laughed and generally made our own little wake.
The second sign was the magnificent display of clouds all day. When I left Dad the first time I made a note to tell him how different they were down here than in our hilly New England skies. Turns out he was painting them himself by the time I got back to him.
This entire week’s journey has been surreal and often felt to me as if I was in someone else’s sitcom but coming home to his place this afternoon was a massive shift in the tectonic plates. What, this morning, was his property to be protected and privacy to be guarded was now three rooms full of orphaned treasures.
Martha shook us out of our dazed state of exhaustion and told us she had reserved a table at a restaurant by the beach and we were to go there and sit by the water and watch the legendary Sunset over Naples Bay.
Honestly, when we pulled into the drive I was afraid they would suss out our log cabin roots and send us packing to dairy queen. But they couldn’t have been nicer and we were seated on the veranda just under the cover of the porch roof in case the magestic thunder clouds decided to let go.
It was wonderful to be in a festive atmosphere as we had decided to celebrate Dad’s life and raise a toast to his last sunset. Just over my shoulder, as we were feasting on our shrimp cocktail, a small wedding party paraded down a rose petal strewn grassy aisle accompanied by chamber music and cameras flashing and dinner guests on the veranda raising their glasses in congratulations.
Pat smiled and we toasted the long winding thread of life…going on and on.
The waiter who poured our drinks said something nice and Pat put her arm on his and thanked him for making me smile telling him that my father had died this morning …his eyes filled up and he told us his mother had died two weeks ago…in jamaica. He was able to be there. A whisper.
Then as the grilled scallops and ridiculously rich lobster sauce was served a vibrant woman with a notebook in hand, who turned out to be part concierge and part notary, came up and asked us if we were the two women in the newspaper article. Nope I don’t think so…Yes, yes the ones who have been together for 36 years ? We’ll give you twenty and hope for the next 16 but nope, we’re not from around here. She had trouble taking no for an answer but we got to talking and she went to find the article to show us and the merriment around us blossomed into a beach party complete with sparrows dancing at my feet and the entire crowd rearranging their chairs to get the best view of the sun which was setting behind Dad’s majestic clouds.
Bill swears by this famous green flash that happens just as the sun sets. I did hear others saying…wait…wait for it.
When at last it set a wave of applause rippled along the beach…some were disappointed. Not me. I was looking into Pat’s eyes, green as the dune grasses beyond and my heart was brimming with having come through this week of storms …out to the other side…where we all have found some new names for peace.