December 2009 is a month I will not soon forget. It had all the makings of a traditional Maple family holiday season: feather-light snowfalls, a journey to a farm to chop down our tree, gatherings with family and friends, a village under the tree, wassail, music, Christmas pillowcases, etc. But this year was also very different.

My Dad fell ill at the beginning of the month and was hospitalized. It at first was due to his gall bladder pain, but focus quickly shifted to his liver failure, anemia, eventual kidney failure and heart irregularities. He tried different therapies hoping to yield enough time to receive a transplant, but Dad moved to the intensive care unit Christmas day, where he stayed for 5 days before deciding that there was little to no hope and opted to return home for his final days.

While part of me is angry that this illness could have been preventable through changes earlier in his life, the largest part of me ached to see him fighting so hard, and losing so fast. We are lucky that he was strong enough to know what he wanted in the end, could articulate his wishes with our family and the medical staff, and that all of his family was willing to follow his requests in full.

We are also blessed that my Dad was alert enough on Tuesday night to recognize that he had returned home, express his joy in being in familiar surroundings, request what would become his last meal, laugh with family and friends, and be licked from head to toe by his puppy Bailey.

My step-mother's strength was tremendous in attending to Dad's medical and personal care, and making his last days at home so comfortable. My step-sister was by her side and my Dad's through all of this as well, and for the love they both shared, I am eternally grateful.

I got to spend a considerable amount of time with my Dad during his two days at home. There was an open door policy, and friends and family were encouraged to spend time at his bedside, even when he slipped into less consciousness. On New Year's Eve, he was "asleep" most of the day, but still showed small signs of acknowledgement when people spoke to him.

Just before 8pm, he became less agitated, and his breathing relaxed a little, so we checked in with family to let them know it appeared he would have a restful night. My step-mother and I were looking through pictures when Bailey started whining in the other room. We looked over at my father and realized this pup was alerting us. My stepmother and I made it to his bedside in time to hold his hands and tell him we love him during his final breaths, precisely at 8pm.

It is a moment I will never forget. And I am grateful that my Dad is finally at peace.

Photo credit: minimaple, 4 year-old grandson


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mommo4.5 said...

A lovely post. It's so good that these last few weeks and your Dad's passing held peaceful and loving moments for you all, including for him. I'm sorry, though, for your sadness, and wish you peace during your time of grieving.