I’ve been thinking a lot about my Dad recently. He died 17 years ago. He would have celebrated his 94th Birthday this past Thanksgiving. I was trying to get some organization to my office last week (again!) and came across a series of “From the Rev’s” I had written the last ten days of Dad’s life. He had Alzheimer’s the last three years of his life and did not recognize me for the last year. I’m not sure why, but as I read over this journal I thought it might be helpful to one or two of you out there in email land…or maybe it’s just me going down memory lane…but whatever the case, I’m the one writing this email so here it is.
This particular entry is from July 31, 1997. We had removed a feeding tube from Dad six days earlier (something we knew he did NOT want!):
It’s 10:30 PM on Thursday night. I’ve just returned from seeing Dad once again. I can’t believe he’s still hanging on. Tomorrow, it will be a full week since we removed the feeding tube. I find it helpful to sit at this computer and write to you. Thank you for ‘listening’.
I’m finding it interesting the memories that are brought back through our senses…through a song we hear played…through the delicious taste of a cherry coke. This morning it was through a smell. I gave Dad a good shave, massaged his face with some lotion…but something was still missing. All of a sudden I remembered “Old Spice”, the after shave cologne that Dad used to splash on every morning and evening after he shaved. On a whim, I left the nursing home and went around the corner to the Walgreen’s store to see if they still sold the stuff, and sure enough, there it was in the same cream colored bottle Dad always kept on his dresser. They not only had it, but it was no sale! For $4.99 you got a small bottle of the cologne and a free bottle of the after shave! Dad would have been proud of me, being the penny-pincher that he was. (I would never THINK of telling him I paid $45 for something called “Obsession”!)
I returned to the nursing home and splashed some of the cologne on Dad’s face and neck. I could swear he smiled when I intentionally placed some under his nose! When I left, I carried the smell of “Old Spice” on my hands throughout the day, and memories flooded my mind every time I got a whiff of it.
Tonight his eyes were open and his breathing was quieter. I softly sang a few old hymns to him: “In the Garden”; “Others”; “I Would Be True”; “The Old Rugged Cross”….all hymns from the old Cokesbury hymnbooks we used to use at the Sunday night services at Grace UMC in Miami. At one point, he lifted his hands up, almost like he was directing…then he intertwined his fingers as if in prayer.
I confess I don’t understand how or why Dad is hanging on. I’ve prayed for his release. I’ve said good-bye every time I’ve left. I’ve asked for his forgiveness for the ways I have been less than a good son at times, and forgiven him for being less than a good father at times. I’ve given him ‘permission’ to ‘go home’. There are so many things that I don’t understand in this world, mysteries that I cannot fathom, questions I want answered. Dad, do you understand what’s going on right now? It WAS your wish not to live like this, wasn’t it? What are you thinking, hearing, seeing, feeling?
In my heart I believe he can hear me, whatever state of mind he is in…and so I will continue to talk to him, read to him, sing to him. In my heart I believe he knows that I am there. I don’t know what else to do.
I’m realizing through these days of ‘letting go’ that I loved my Dad in ways I am now only starting to acknowledge. Thank you, Dad. Thank you for the piece of your life which you gave to me. It is in my bones, and helps me, even now, to stand up and walk taller.
And thank YOU, good friends, for letting me grieve on your shoulders through these email ramblings.
You are loved,