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Jeanette’s Dad

Well it’s been a long time.

I had a rant written last Sunday afternoon. It was my typical shallow self concerns and crap. Me, not liking Richmond. Me, not liking the drivers in Richmond. Me, missing Kitsilano. Me thinking this web person’s an asshole. Me thinking that web person is too full of themselves. Me bitching, whining, and complaining.

But a call late Sunday evening from Jeanette’s sister Athena kind of put all those petty things to the deep back burner. Jeanette’s Dad, in the last stages of his battle with liver cancer, had liquid seeping into his degraded lungs. He was entering the final hours of his life.

The last time I saw Jeanette’s Dad (Pat) was when he was admitted to the hospital for his final stay. That was about 3 weeks ago. He looked pale, and he was obviously in pain, but he was still cognizant, and still able to move around. Most of his family was with him. His sons Tim and Tom, who are twins. His son Patrick, who was down from his job in northern BC. His wife May, and Jeanette, who I drove to the hospital with, because she was so afraid.

Over the next three weeks, Jeanette’s Dad deteriorated. About a week into his stay, Jeanette was convinced that he would go any second, but I told her then that these things come and go in waves. I told her to hope for the best, prepare for the worst, but don’t give up yet. I told her she will have another chance to talk to her Dad, to let him know what he means to her, and most importantly, to ask any question she might have.

I’ve seen cancer eat away people before, and you simply never know until near the end if mysterious things would happen, and in this case, they did.

Jean’s Dad did improve, if only marginally. But he improved enough that Jeanette did get a chance to talk to him, to let him know how much she loves him. To ask him questions about his life, his hopes, his dreams. She got to spend that extra time with her Dad. It made her a fuller person, and it made her Dad know without a doubt that he was loved.

Every day would pass with Jeanette going to the hospital most of the day, then coming home to teach, then going back to the hospital for most of the night, coming home around 11 or midnight. In my shallow self, I sometimes resented this, especially at two times when I needed the car to run my own errands. I’m kind of pissed off at myself over that.

Every day I would ask Jean how her father was doing, and I would tell her, spend this time with him Jean, get to know him as best you can, better than you thought possible. She did this. She also cried a lot, because I think she knew she had to be strong around her Dad. So when she came home, she was a wreck, and most of the time, I did my best to comfort her.

Then this past Sunday, January 17, the call came from her sister.

I drove Jeanette to the hospital, and told her I would stay with her. We walked up to the room and I could hear this noise. A noise I’ve heard a few times before. It’s a noise that made me quake to my shoes. It’s known as the death rattle.

Jeanette didn’t quite know what it was, and she looked at me with a puzzled expression… thinking perhaps it was a breathing machine that was on the fritz. She told me later on that she had never heard that noise before, and it scared her when she found out her father was producing this sound, not a machine.

Pat was in the last stages. Liquid was seeping in his lungs, and he was very much unconscious, in a semi coma state. His body, gaunt and pale, was heaving with an extreme force to get enough oxygen into his lungs. He was lying on his side, back to the doorway, and I have to say, I was afraid to go to the other side of the bed to look at him. I have heard this sound before, in my grandmother and in a friend, and staring them in the face was enough for me, at this time in my life.

But Jeanette, forcing back barely controlled weeping did go to her father. She held his hand, touched his head, and told him she loved him. She stood there for a long time, trying to get her feelings to him once more, trying to hold back the tears, and most of all, thinking her father was in great pain. The physical aspects of what was going on convinced her of this.

Eventually, we went to the comfort room, where I held her for a long time. The rest of the family was there, and the main topic was pain. I was silent for a long time but I finally told them that their father was not in pain at this stage. His mind isn’t suffering it anymore. His body was on autopilot now, and it needed to work this out. His mind was at rest, and they really needed to understand this.

The vigil continued throughout the night, with most of the family visiting the room one at a time. At around 3:30 am, Monday morning, Jeanette’s Mom insisted everyone go home, and that they weren’t doing any good there. Her Mom was exhausted from being awake over 24 hours, and probably wasn’t thinking very rationally.

The twins, wanting to appease the mother, and also to get her to sleep, decided to go back home with her. Jeanette and Athena would not budge though. They felt that someone had to be with their Dad to the end.

Around 4:30, I too left. I was going to go home and sleep until 7, and then I would go back to the hospital and support Jeanette. I didn’t really want to leave, but I thought that it would be good if the two daughters stayed there, and this precious, imporant, and feared moment was shared only by immediate loved ones. So I went home, and went to sleep. Around 6:10, the phone rang.

Jeanette’s father passed away, peacefully, and with his two daughters holding his hands, at 5:40 am, on January 18.

Jeanette told me that in those last moments, as her father’s breathing was becoming slower and fainter, he gave his daughters’ hands a barely perceptible squeeze, and he smiled at them both. For most of the evening, she thought that he didn’t know they were there, that anyone was there with him. This last act showed her that he did know, and that he did finally move on with love around him.

He was in his mid fifties, and it wasn’t really his time.

I want to close this off by saying how proud I am of Jeanette. She’s been strong through this ordeal, and she continues to be so. She stood, defiantly some may say, against her mother’s wishes and stayed with her father for those last few hours. She gave her father that final strength he needed, right at the last moment. She is probably the strongest out of her whole family through this whole ordeal, and she’s the one offering support and strength to the others, at least from what I can see.

She’s come through this very well… an ordeal that’s one of the toughest in our human nature – to see our loved ones die. But most nights, it’s time for her to let go, and to let someone else be strong for her. I try my best, though at times I don’t know what to say. One thing that concerns me is that I think Jeanette is still in shock, and hasn’t really totally “let go” yet. That will come, in time.

It’s not over yet, (not that it ever really will be – she’ll always miss her dad) as the funeral is this weekend. Family, friends and associates of Pat will be remembering him in a ceremony. Once that is done, hopefully Jeanette will begin to heal, and when she remembers her Dad, she remembers him in happy thoughts more than in sorrowful ones.



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