Ten years ago this past June, my husband Jim and I returned home from a Saturday afternoon of shopping to find a message from my brother Gary on our answering machine. In a tremulous voice he said, “Kay, Dad is in the Cleveland Metro-Health Hospital and he’s not doing well. Call me as soon as you can.”
My heart pounded and my hands shook as I dialed the hospital number and spoke with my brother on Dad’s condition. Tests revealed a non-functioning liver. His doctor blamed the diabetes medication as the cause. Dad, seventy-five years old and in a coma, would not make it through a transplant. In a few hours he would die. I told Gary we would be there as soon as possible.
The next plane to Cleveland left in seven hours. I could not wait. We packed our suitcases, jumped in our car, and drove the eight-hour trip from Richmond to Cleveland in six and one-half hours. We arrived at Metro Health Hospital at 11 p.m.
As a nurse employed here years ago, I knew the location of the ICU and hurried along the corridor toward Dad’s room. The rhythmic din of a respirator echoed in the hallway. As we entered his room, Mom and Gary met us with hugs.
Dad’s appearance made me gasp. His destroyed liver, unable to filter the poisons from his system, caused Dad’s body to distend to three times its normal size. A respirator forced air into his lungs, the constant drip of intravenous fluids flowed into his veins, and a Foley catheter monitored his kidneys.
I wailed, “Daddy, its Kay... I love you.”
“I just met with the doctor again.” Mom whispered as she handed me a tissue. “I gave him permission to remove the life support machine. He said Dad might breathe on his own for a while or he might not breathe at all once it is removed.”
“There’s no hope, Mom.” I whimpered.
A nurse entered and asked us to wait in the chapel. While there Pastor Murray arrived, Mom and Dad’s minister from their church.
We returned to Dad’s room fifteen minutes later. An eerie silence greeted us without the constant noise of the ventilator. Dad’s respirations were shallow while his jaundiced and bloated face appeared peaceful.
Each of us said his or her goodbyes. I squeaked, “Daddy, you’ll... be with Jesus soon. I’ll see you later... Love you.” I kissed his forehead, fell into Jim’s arms, and sobbed.
Several times during the arduous vigil, I peered through the fifth story windows. The streets below were empty. My blurry eyes stared at the raindrops as they trickled to the bottom of the windowpane. I remembered my Father’s strong presence in my fifty-one years of life. The thought of living without him stabbed my heart and made me nauseous.
Daddy, I wish I could see you smile one more time, feel your arms around me, and hear you tell me I’m your little girl.
A beautiful sunrise ushered in the signs of my Father’s impending death. Raspy respirations, apnea, where there are longer pauses in the breathing cycle. In the past I witnessed hundreds of my patients expire; this morning I would watch my Daddy die.
This is a test of my faith.
I prayed, “Lord, please perform a miracle and heal my Daddy,” and in the next breathe I pled, “Lord, please do not let him suffer anymore. Take him home.” In a moment, my faith rescued me. The Holy Spirit brought comfort, peace, and Scriptures to my distressed mind.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.
Daddy took one short breath and two long ones. I waited for him to inhale again... but my beloved Father was gone.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
I embraced my sobbing Mother. Jim and Dan wiped their eyes.
Never will I forsake you; never will I leave you. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Pastor Murray prayed.
“Dad has arrived home.” Mom said as she wiped her eyes.
“Yes, Mom, Daddy’s with Jesus.” I sniveled. “Let’s get you home so you can rest.”
We left the room arm in arm, the men followed. I heard the door close behind us.
* * * * *
My father entered heaven June 26, 2000. He left me a legacy of love, Christian examples of godliness, and fifty-one years of cherished memories.
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