On Wednesday, March 8th my father passed away at the age of 78.
He fell over the weekend, causing a subdural hematoma . They performed brain surgery Monday to relieve the pressure. On Tuesday his vitals crashed and we were advised that there was nothing to be done. He was moved to a hospice center that afternoon. He never regained consciousness after surgery. My daughter (17) went in to tell him goodbye on Monday.
My mom and my sister stayed overnight Tuesday while his breathing became more and more shallow.
Wednesday I got up and had an urge to read The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. I thought I had a copy of it already but apparently I never got around to buying it. So my wife and I drove to Barnes and Noble to pick one up before heading to the hospice to spell mom and sis.
When we got to hospice we sent mom and sis home for a shower and food. The plan was for them to come back in the morning. After they were gone I opened up the book and read the first page under the “Dying” section. It said to be honest with the dying and to tell them what they need to hear, that it’s about them- not you.
So, I took him by the hand and said “Pop, mom just left with sis. I want you to know that mom will be taken care of. Me, sis, <my wife>, <sis’s husband>, <my kid>… hell, the grandkids have fights on who gets to be with her. She’ll be safe and we’ll make sure she’s OK. We’ve got this. All you need to do is relax and let go. Love you pop”
2 minutes later he was gone.
I don’t know why I woke up wanting that book. But it told me what needed to be done.
I called sis who literally just got out of the parking lot. She turned around and came back. Now, my wife is a very strong person. I’ve seen her go through multiple deaths in her family and I can count the number of times I’ve seen her cry in 28 years on one hand. However, my mom’s reaction to seeing my dad dead… it was the realest, most heart breaking thing I have ever seen. I really have no words to describe it. My stoic wife was left sobbing in the corner, just watching it.
After a few minutes mom looked at me, still destroyed, and asked “Why didn’t he want me here when he left?”- like it was betrayal. By now the hospice doctor was in the room and she had seen this hundreds of times. I told her “He was waiting for you to leave so you wouldn’t have to see it. He wanted to spare you that moment.” Hospice doctor just nods and says “It almost always works that way. Men will hang on until the wife leaves. It’s just how things go.”
I then told her what I told him, about her being taken care of and how he was gone less than 2 minutes later. “Mom, he may have been a grumpy old man but there is no arguing that he loved you. He refused to go until he knew you would be OK.”
And that is how my father died.