Thursday, January 14, 2016


I got the text from Paul early this afternoon. The nurse had decided it was time to move my Dad to the hospice. Paul and Shari, who have been nothing less than saints taking care of my parents for the past few months, had been getting very little sleep making sure Dad would stay in his bed. He kept getting out of bed wanting to go somewhere. This is common when someone is in the later stages of dying. The get agitated and feel like they have to go some where. He's so frail and thin, that if he fell, he would undoubtedly break bones. So the nurse made the call and let my Dad know we would be moving him to hospice. There, he would get medicine to keep him comfortable until the time comes. He asked the nurse, "And what happens next?" She said, "Well, then you will go and be with you wife." and he just nodded his head and said, "Ok."

I didn't rent a car while down here in Naples, so I've been biking everywhere. I raced all the way from my brother's house, to my parent's house. 8.5 miles away. Made it in 35 minutes. I went in and said hello to Dad, he slowly turned his head and made eye contact, but he could barely utter a hello. Just yesterday, he said "Hi Pete!" as clear as day. In the past few days I've watched a sharp decline in his condition. He's transitioning. He's peaceful and quiet. His movements are slow. Occasionally he mutters things that I can't understand. Sometimes he'll ask me if I can come back early the next morning so that I can take him to Sam's Club or Costco. He liked when I drove him around in November and took him shopping. It's as though he doesn't realize how weak and frail he is. There's no way I could take him out in his condition. But his brain is still going. "Pete, get here around 9 tomorrow. I want to go to a few places." It breaks my heart, because I have to say yes knowing full well I can't

So we were waiting for the hospital van to arrive. Not an ambulance, but a van they use to transport patients to hospice. I'm standing there next to my Dad, in his last moments in his home. A home he was very proud of and did so much work to try and make it better. And now he was about to cross the threshold of that front door for the last time in his life. I'm not sure he understood the significance of that moment, but the rest of us did. I had a lump in my throat. This is it. He is not coming back.

The van was backed into the driveway. They turned around the stretcher and my Dad was looking at the house. His house. I wondered what was going through his mind. I didn't want him to see the tears welling up in my eyes so I smiled at him and waved as they lifted the stretcher onto the van. My Dad's gaze continued toward the house. The van doors shut. I rode in the van with my Dad to the hospice. A lot of the neighbors had gathered outside in their driveways, and as we pulled away in the van, I didn't know what else to do, I didn't want to wave, so I gave a salute. Like I was transporting a wounded soldier. Dad's stretcher was facing out the back window. He couldn't see me so I said Dad, just so you know, I'm here. We left Forest Park, their home for the past 15 years for the last time. It was sad to say the least. 

When we arrived at the hospice, Dad was in the back asleep, but when we got him out of the back, the sun seemed to hurt his eyes so he lifted his arms up to shield them. We wheeled my Dad in to Room 8 North, the exact same room my mother was in exactly one month earlier. A parade of nurses came in got my dad changed, cleaned up, and got him nice and comfy in is bed. On top of the bed was a child's blanket. I don't know if it was Chandler's or maybe Evan's, but it seemed kind of comforting. Minutes after the nurses left, a nice priest came in and administered last rites to my Dad. It was a beautiful moment. I really wanted this for my Dad. 
Paul and I were present as last rites were read. We all bowed our heads and prayed. The priest said he had been absolved of all his sins and can now rocket up to heaven to be with Hilda. 
Seriously, that's what he said, it was kind of funny. I don't know if it's appropriate to take photos at times like these, but I did want to document my Dad's last days and write about it. Paul and I returned later that nigh for about an hour but Dad was asleep nearly the whole time. When we left, Dad again said that he wanted us to come pick him up early to go shopping. Wherever my Dad is going, there had better be a Lowe's, Home Depot, Sam's Club, and Coscto or there will be trouble.  


Unknown said...

So, I stumbled upon your blog because one of our mutual friends commented on your Facebook post and it showed up in my news feed. It took me back to two years ago when my dad died and my mom was diagnosed with cancer. Thoughts and prayers to you and your family during this difficult time. You're right on with everything you said about the dying process. My dad was also put on hospice but spent his last days at home and hospice came to him. It is important to let them know it's ok for them to go. We made sure my dad knew that we would be there to take care of my mom and he passed not long after. My mom is still fighting the good fight and I hope when her time comes I can be as strong as you are.


Pete Burke said...

Wow, thank you. I thought that this maybe would go unread. It was more of a way for me to process what was happening rather than try to go to bed and stay up all night tossing and turning. Thank you for your comment and kind words.

Cheryl Buonavolonta said...

So sorry for your loss, continued prayers for you and your family.