When the Montreal Neurological Hospital discharge team said we no longer give your father months to live; its weeks, they werent kidding.
He lasted six weeks almost to the day.
Many people, mostly family and close friends thank us, my brothers and I, for taking care of my dad. But becoming full-time nurse aides wasnt something we did for the recognition; we did it for him. We did it because we wanted our dad to be home, in familiar surroundings, seeing and feeling our smiling faces and tender touches rather than those of someone he might not have known.
While most cancer deaths are very painful, his was not at least physically. The doctors assured us of that, and up until the very end, the only pain he felt was anguish a troubled, mixed up anguish. You see because he had aggressive brain cancer his ability to understand and communicate was compromised, yet he knew full well that he was stuck in a Lazy-boy recliner unable to get up and do.
My dad was used to getting up at the crack of dawn, having his morning coffee and heading up to the village (Hemmingford) to make his rounds. Hed go help the owners of a local restaurant with opening chores - and then hed head to another establishment to help out there, then on to the next.
For something to do.
And because he loved people.
And because he loved to be useful.
Before his surgery he would come to visit me every weekend. I live on a farm in a wonderful old house where there was always something to do. We worked on projects, we went to auctions and we went to our wood lot. And whenever he had the chance, hed go with my husband and his buddy - fishing.
Of course he had to be home by a certain time on Sundays or if you planned to visit it had to be early it was the day a local restaurant offered country-western music, open microphone and dancing.
My father had long legs, and let me tell you they could move! And if you were within his reach, youd be moving right along with him. Im not sure which he loved more, fishing or dancing.
But for those last six weeks he sat and he lay. He ate. He drank. And he stared at the pictures he had on a shelf beside him.
So when people ask, was your dad in pain? I have to say, yes, yes he was.
And not being able to express himself made it painful for us too. You see we were given books on end of life care, but they mostly pertained to caring for those who could communicate. They were about helping the gravely ill make peace before they passed away. They talked about the need to have those wonderful, meaningful conversations the ones we could not have with a man whose brain was under such stress.
It is common for folks to say, Im sorry for your loss, but in this case his passing truly was a blessing.
It feels good knowing we were there for him. We made his last few weeks as pleasant and as comfortable as we could heck I think I know every Johnny Cash and Buck Owens song by heart, we listened to them so much. So, basically we have no regrets save one.
I never got to take the old man fishing that one last time.
I was with him when he passed away, he was quite restless at first, perhaps fearful of his fate, but he seemed to settle down after I told him it was time to go home.
I held his hand and said, Dad, it is okay now. No need to worry about us, well be fine and so will you. You are going to a place where theres all the fishing you can ever hope for and where therell be country-western music and dancing 24 hours a day.
He smiled and nodded in agreement.
I love you dad, I said softly.
Me too, he managed to whisper.
He slipped off into a deep sleep and passed away several hours later peacefully.