Yesterday, my kids and I made our final visit to room 1312 on the hospice unit where my father-in-law resided for his final days. My youngest SIL (I'll call her "D") and her family were already there keeping vigil at the bedside. My FIL had complained of pain in his left arm and was given morphine earlier in the day, and had been unresponsive ever since. The nurse had explained that he was already showing signs of dying: his ears had relaxed (I'd never heard of that, but I guess it makes sense), his hands were growing cold, his heart rate was slowing down, etc. A glance in my FIL's direction let me know he wasn't "long for this world" as the old folks say. D was dabbing at her eyes while her two young daughters sat on the other bed in the room quietly reading and drawing on paper. What to say at a time like this? I spoke gently to my FIL, letting him know we were present and that we loved him. I imagined how dry his mouth must be since he was breathing with his mouth open and his lips appeared to be stuck to his teeth giving the appearance that he was bearing his teeth. I wet a sponge-tipped swab with tap water and applied a little "mouth moisturizer" to it before gently rubbing it along his lips. FIL responded to that since his lips were no longer stuck. He puckered up a bit and tried to suck the moisture from the sponge. Funny how that survival instinct just kicks in. His eyes opened briefly but were quite groggy and unfocused from the medication. I know it was very difficult for my kids to see their grandfather like this, but I'm glad they were with me.
I read Psalm 27 to my FIL and almost couldn't finish between the tears distorting my vision and the fact that I didn't have my glasses with me. I held his balled up hand, rubbed his emaciated shoulder and kissed his cool cheek for what I figured would be the last time.
My plan was to take the kids to my mom's house so they could attend mass with her and then tell my husband about the latest development and return to the hospital with him after he made it in from work. The hubs chose to avoid the hospital and remember his dad from our visit the day before when he was at least a little responsive, so we didn't return to the hospital. My SIL "P" called just after 10 p.m. to let us know that Famous Granddad had quietly slipped away surrounded by a miniature lit Christmas tree, quiet music and several family members. All choked up but trying to keep my voice steady, I relayed the information to my husband who simply acknowledged my words, finished watching whatever game he was watching on TV and went to bed. Thankfully, I didn't have to make all of the calls. I don't think I could have if I wanted to. I'm okay as long as I don't have to say it out loud. I called my sister and my mom and let them know, swallowing around a lump that felt like a walnut wedged in my throat. Then my kids and I prayed the Rosary before turning in for the night. I know the Bible tells us not to mourn like those who have no hope when we lose a loved one, but hot tears are still stinging my eyes now that everyone has gone to bed and my house is quiet . I'll close with the words to a song a lady from my church used to sing so beautifully. The words are fitting for the occasion. I'm guessing the title is "I'm Free" but I do not know to whom to credit the lyrics:
I'm free, praise the Lord I'm free!
I'm no longer bound;
There are no more chains holding me;
My soul is resting
And it's a blessing
Praise the Lord, Hallelujah
Good night and thank you for your continued prayers. Until next time...