Friends this is a tough one to write and one I knew would be coming but still feel completely shocked that it’s time has come. My sweet, sweet father passed away on Sunday, February 17 at 1:30pm surrounded by his family and a few close friends we call framily.
If you’ve been reading for awhile you know I’ve shared here many times that my dad has been ill. He was diagnosed with Interstitial Lung Fibrosis over 10 years ago but in recent months the disease kicked into high gear. My dad has been on hospice care since September. At that time we were told we’d be lucky if he made it to see the holidays. He did. We were overjoyed and blessed with each day. He even lived to see his 77th birthday on February 6.
The time we had with him was such a blessing. I can honestly say we have no regrets. There are no should haves for me. I did everything and said I everything I wanted to say to my dad. He knew how much we all loved him and we know how much he loved us. But still…we are all heartbroken. My parents have been married for almost 58 years, my mother has loved my dad since she was 15. My heart breaks for her, I have never seen a love like this.
I spent the day with him just last Wednesday so my mom could get out with her friend. I LOVED working from my parents house and spending the day with my dad. He was okay that day – really. We watched the ID channel all day (until General Hospital came on). For the record I am not a fan of soap operas but my mom and dad never miss an episode so there I was watching without complaint. I kissed him goodbye that day and figured we’d have more days like that. But I was wrong.
Friday the wheels started to fall off – he had so much trouble breathing, need more morphine. I woke up early Saturday morning and wrote my Monday post. Then my mom called and we talked about how we’d tackled the week ahead. Hospice was sending over a hospital bed and I told her I’d work from her house all week. Together we’d take care of my dad. Then I headed over there.
Long story short our hospice nurse came over and so kindly mentioned that the inpatient unit at the hospital could do a better job stabilizing my dad. He could return home once they got him under control. I knew that would never happen. He was transported by ambulance to the hospital and I drove my mom there. Bless her heart my mom really believed he’s becoming home but I let her know it was not likely.
The hospice staff at the hospital? Amazing. kind. Patient. Each person took so much time talking to us, they wanted to know everything about my dad. They encouraged us to bring pictures for his room, to keep talking to him. While we talked to his nurse we told her how funny and witty he is and she said, “Oh yes, we know!” Then she recounted the story of how when my dad was delivered to his room she and the doctor went in to assess him. The doctor said, “Hi, Thomas I am Dr. Knight.” Without missing a beat, my barely conscious father responded, “Hi, I’m Dr. Day.” They were taken aback for a minute and then cracked up. That was my dad. Everyone’s favorite. So loved and now so missed.
My parents are Catholic and he was given his last rites that night. On Sunday morning hospice arranged his final salute (he’s a Navy veteran) performed by a retired Marine. It was incredibly meaningful to us and so special. I ugly cried the entire time. Actually I ugly cried Saturday and all day Sunday to the point that my head and eyes hurt.
My father passed so peacefully as we all sat there recounting funny stories because any time my dad was involved there was laughter. Even in the most somber times my dad was the one who brought the joy and the hope. He never met a stranger and I can honestly say that all who knew him loved him. He was a simple man who wanted nothing more than his family. He was so very proud of his grandchildren. They loved him so much. My son Nolan called Sunday morning and asked that we hold the phone up to my dad’s ear. He told him how thankful he was to have him as a grandfather, how much he learned from him, how lucky he was to have a close knit family and how we’d all take care of grandma. There was more and I remember thinking what an incredible son I have to so eloquently say goodbye in such a meaningful way.
We spent the rest of the day crying, praying, laughing, holding him, hugging him. Although we knew it was coming the death of someone you love is something you’re never quite ready for. But we take some joy in knowing he is no longer in pain, his body is whole and healthy. He has been reunited with his twin brother who died at birth. We feel the love of so many. Our friends who have supported us and have been there for us in all the difficult times. We know they will be there as face even more tough times ahead. We are blessed. Family is everything.
So in the end what I would say to you is this: make up with anyone you are currently at odds with; live today without regret; take the time to say what needs to be said;give the hug even if it is not returned. The hospice staff all commented to us that they don’t usually see so much family around a person. If you have been around my family before you know what a group the O’Donnell clan can be, we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Thank you from the very bottom of my heart for all of your prayers and kind words. Thank you for letting me share this, it has been cathartic for me.
I say this often and I mean it, these are not simply words. Make today marvelous friends, be blessed. Time is fleeting.