I may be 46 years old, but this is still how I see myself with my dad.
He is strong, kind, handsome, patient (most of the time), intuitive, caring, the best direction-giver and “wicked smart” (per one of the cardiologists who used to work with dad when he was in pacemaker sales).
He is the perfect dad. He holds my hand whenever I need him (and that’s been a lot lately).
He also tells me he loves my writing and wants me to keep at it. And so, I write…
A little over a week ago, my dad called and asked if I could talk for two minutes. He led the conversation with discussions about the unemployment rate and all that was going on in Charlottesville.
Then, he paused and said, “Lizabeth, the third reason I called is…I think I’m dying.”
Now, anyone who knows my dad knows that he is the best story-teller, totally hilarious and tends to exaggerate from time to time. However, his tone of voice told me that this was not a joke. I shifted gears and tried to encourage him to seek medical attention. He declined because he did not want to go back to the hospital due to some negative experiences with previous hospitalizations.
Feeling completely helpless living so far away, I sought help from one of the helpers – my friend and a paramedic. Because of her advice, my dad changed his mind and his wife, Pam, was able to get him to the hospital for treatment.
This experience has been completely different for my dad.
He is at peace.
He is vulnerable.
He is in charge.
He is able to have his family around him 24/7. In fact, we had the biggest slumber party in his ICU room one night filled with side-splitting giggles, a few tears, loads of heated blankets and crappy coffee. I know he was filled with joy having all of us together. It was honestly one of the most special nights of my life – all of us coming together to be there for the man who is and was always there for us.
He is also becoming the mayor of this awesome hospital. The nursing staff, patient care technicians and room service staff know him, stopping him in the hallway to see how he’s feeling as he’s made his way to/from ICU and back again to a regular room. He is smiling at and charming everyone in this place. He is also having intelligent conversations with the physicians. They are speaking WITH him, not around him about his health care. He is being treated with dignity and respect. And he feels it.
The high-level quality of care that he has received has allowed him to become stable enough to go back to where he wants to be – HOME – on his terms. There, he will be with his team: his wife, kids, family and medical professionals who will keep him comfortable for the rest of his days.
Now, I know I spend a great deal of my life advocating “life is good” – but sometimes we have to have difficult conversations about death and dying.
We have had a couple of those conversations.
His response, “Lizabeth, you are learning something here.”
How do you have a good death?
The answer is probably different for everyone.
There is no one size fits all solution.
For me, my dad is serving as the ultimate role model.
He is still holding my hand and leading the way.
(Originally posted on Facebook 8/22/2017)