My Mom and Dad were married for 62 years, and as is common with married couples as they approach their golden years, when one passes away, the other is usually not far behind. When my Dad was diagnosed with stomach cancer 18 months ago, the doctor told him he had about 12-18 months if he decided to forego chemo treatments. I remember being in the hospital and asking my Dad if he wanted to go through chemo. He looked out the window for a second, looked back and said, "No, I've had a good run. If the doctor says I have 12-18 months, I'll take it." That was 18 months ago. Back in the fall, I spent nearly the whole month of November down in Florida visiting my parents, thinking that my Dad, who was quite frail, would be the first to leave us. As fate would have it, my Mom passed away first, on December 18th, a week before Christmas. I truly feel that my father hung on to see my mother get to the other side. I know he was worried about what would happen to her if he passed away first. I'm just glad that I was able to take that time to visit with my parents and spend some time with them before my Mom passed.
At my Mom's funeral, my Dad appeared frail and weak. He had to be brought in to the memorial service in his wheelchair, but he was still able to walk with the help of a cane. I could see that he was heartbroken. Things have declined sharply since then, and even more so in the past 5 days. Just last week I came to visit him and he was sitting at the kitchen table peeling potatoes for his "Scouse," a stew from England that was popular during WWII and especially popular around the Burke house. That was the last time I remember seeing him still being himself. In the days since, he has been mostly confined to the hospital bed in the living room, which was originally intended for my mother. He's been sleeping about 20 hours a day, maybe more. He's lost nearly all of his physical strength to the point where he can barely sit up. It is hard to watch when I think of how physically fit and strong my father was. One thing my brother Paul told me that was heartbreaking, was that one night last week, while he was helping my Dad get into the hospital bed, my Dad said, "I want to go home." Paul said, "Dad, you are home." But I know what he meant. He's tired. Tired of the struggle. Tired of fighting. After seeing him today, I think he's ready, I want him to know it's ok to go. It's okay to let go Dad. Mom is waiting for you.