It has been nearly a year since I lost my dad. Today was a year since he entered the hospital to have major heart surgery. He came through the surgery great and was progressing with his recovery, a bit slower than expected, however, with Covid shutting down hospital access and elective procedures we were assured he would receive extra care and attention with fewer patients in the facility. Unfortunately, this time last year there were also restrictions on any visitors, so no one, not even my mother was allowed to be there in person. This meant that there could only be phone calls and with him so weak those calls sometimes went to the nurse’s station to check on his recovery. Again, we were assured all was on track.
They decided he was a bit weaker than expected so they kept him an extra week, it would be what was best for him. After a few weeks in the hospital, he was finally released. Unfortunately, he passed away at home within hours of his release very suddenly and very consciously. We all hope the best for people when they pass in the sense that we hope for a quick and painless passing. I feel that he didn’t exactly get either of those, which makes it all the more hard. He was not alone and was unable to audibly speak the last words he tried so hard to convey. My mother and brothers were present performing CPR until the ambulance showed up. I got a call at just after 1 am from my youngest brother, trying to explain the situation to me but unable to really say it. He was too calm, in a state of shock and he calmly says it isn’t good I don’t think it’s going to be okay, they were doing CPR in the ambulance.
I hear him. I’m calm, too calm. I’m shocked, but also in a state of disbelief. I live within 100ft of the hospital they would be bringing him to. I know if there is any hope, any last hope to cling to I will hear the sirens in the next 15 minutes. I had no clue what to do, I could not just be and sit. I took a shower, and I still don’t know why. I had never heard the wail of a siren and I knew, I already knew the answer before I got the next call. The phone rings, I hesitate before answering as if those few extra seconds of not hearing out loud is going to change anything. Somewhere between the first call, a shower, and a second call, I called my sister to let her know. I don’t fully remember the act of doing it. I remember her screaming, and then just breaking down. She handed her phone to her husband and I tell him and then I go.
All the while the children are sleeping and unaware. I want to give them as much time as possible with peace without knowing because it will change them. His loss was the first huge close loss for my children, nieces, and nephews and boy did they love that man. Trying to figure out what to do now because even if you knew what to do at this moment and time the world is different and you are not allowed to do what one would normally do. Saying goodbye during the big restrictions and covid shutdowns in place for the first time was unknown to anyone. We were blessed very blessed with the physician who called his time of death that morning because he broke every single rule to do what he knew was right. Had he followed the protocol that night we would not have seen our dad one last time and there would not have been an in-person goodbye. We weren’t all there it was too hard. We were screened for signs and symptoms of covid and allowed back in twos. We were given as much time as we needed. The waiting room was empty no one was allowed in. The hospital was quiet and emptier than normal. The e.r. was pretty empty. People waiting in the parking lot angry they can’t go back to sit with their loved ones, not realizing we were going to see ours for the last time and it wasn’t some unfair thing going on. I’d love to trade places.
The Doctor not only gave us the only thing resembling closure we would have but he spoke to my mother directly and us. He let us know what he believed had happened and how long they had fought to bring him back stating himself that it wasn’t right he was too young. He told us that he could lose his job for allowing us to say goodbye, but he said I couldn’t do that to him, he deserved better than that. We cried in the parking lot and we left our separate ways for the moment. I had planned to go with my brother to tell my grandmother thinking we would let her sleep, but he was unable to wait and felt like it was the right thing to do. He went alone and he told her face to face which had to be one of the hardest things to ever do in this world. I had just tasked him with going in with my mother at the hospital knowing that I could not physically remove her if I needed to because we genuinely didn’t know if she would leave freely or not.
I had laid down beside my youngest dreading when the morning came. It came sooner than planned somehow though my stream of tears were silent he had nudged awake and had felt my tears. He refused to sleep until I told him why I was crying. I felt the moment he broke with the weight of his whole body. Grief changes you, he would never be the version of the little boy he had been the day before. My daughter woke later delivering the news to her was equally if not more devastating, she had been quite close with him growing up. Everyone changed that day, nothing was ever the same again. There was no service, no funeral. We waited for the call from the funeral home telling us when we could pick up his ashes. Somewhere in the midst of all of this I had gone and got him an urn. There was a week delay in being able to pick up his ashes. Something about holding them in your arms changes things. You never expect it, to have the man you watched your whole life go from invincible to gone. Someone who was once bigger than you seemingly instantly reduced to the contents of an urn that you can hold in your arms.
We visited with one another regularly in the first weeks, none of us with any real direction. None of us able to sleep and we all spent the bulk of our days crying. Meanwhile, the world around me is still turning and flooded with people complaining about not being able to party and hit the bars, to having to wear a mask, to every other petty self-entitled complaint one can imagine. I couldn’t talk to anyone, everyone was so preoccupied with the unknowns of covid and was the world gonna end, meanwhile, I’m drowning in grief and I’m sorry, but at the time I just really didn’t care to listen to foolish petty complaints and whining. I’m in the depths of grief and I’m not wanting to listen to people argue about if covid is real or not and how they claim everyone passing away gets a covid cause, I had a death certificate if you needed to see how stupid you were being. I couldn’t help but think how many thousands upon thousands of families were grieving too in numbers that were out of this world. Lives being lost to the usual and lives being claimed right and left by the first wave of the pandemic and I know they didn’t want to listen to people whine about the small stuff or argue the validity of their loved ones’ death. So many of those families didn’t say goodbye either and no funeral. So many people were robbed of a big part of the grieving process. I’m almost at a year and I’m still trying to catch up on where everyone else thinks I should be in the process.