“Being with someone as they pass is as phenomenal as witnessing a birth. It is a privilege to be present.”
It started out as an ordinary day in November.
I was 22, enjoying my first “real” job since graduating from college. However, this day turned out to be life changing. Today I would lose my dad.
As I arrived at work, I was immediately told that I needed to call my aunt right away. It was about an hour’s drive to get to the hospital in my hometown. This was a blur, emotionally and literally as I urged my boyfriend to drive faster.
ICU was like some kind of dreamworld, some place that shouldn’t be…because the reality was too hard to accept. I remember white…sheets, walls, floors, nurse’s uniforms, the grey tone of my father’s face almost blending in. There were heart monitors, tubes, oxygen masks…things I had never seen. My 19 year old brother was standing beside the bed, trying hard to control his tears. I remember holding him up as his knees started to buckle. My 16 year old sister had an 8 hour trip by train. She would not make it in time. I remember watching the jagged waves on the heart monitor…every beep was another second of denial. As long as his heart was beating, this nightmare had not begun.
I watched him struggle to breathe. I saw the fear in his eyes. I felt the tiniest possibility of hope vanish when a nurse politely explained to us exactly how a person dies when there is no heart muscle left to keep them alive. She told us how the oxygen mask would make him “comfortable” in the end.
A few minutes before my father died, he suddenly attempted to rise to a sitting position. There was no logic to this, given the amount of strength he had left. It was frightening, but amazing at the same time. Looking straight ahead with eyes wide open, he pointed at something. He was unable to speak, but he was trying to communicate. He saw something. He knew something. He was entering a new realm, a journey that we were no longer a part of.
As devastating as this was, I felt so fortunate that I was there. I cannot imagine how disappointing it would be to take your last breaths on this earth without someone you love by your side. Death is not just about loss. Beyond the heartache, there is something more to this moment.
We celebrate the beginning of life.
We need to honor the end of it.