Dad died very peacefully early this morning, at home, in his sleep.
We called in hospice on Sunday and by the time the nurse left on Sunday afternoon, after a 3-hour visit, I had lovely medicines to help Dad — morphine (given sublingually), some lorazepam gel for restlessness, and some fenegran for nausea.
The initial dosage of morphine worked well Sunday night — .25 ml. He slept well. On Monday, though, he felt pain — through his bath and the nurse changing the bandage on his arm. A couple of hours after the hospice aide and nurse left, I called hospice about 1 p.m. yesterday afternoon, and the nurse I talked to walked me through what she wanted me to do — step up the dosage and frequency of the morphine, pair it with the lorazepam the next time THAT could be given, and then back off the frequency if possible so that we were back on the once-every-2-hours schedule. By 6, Dad was more comfortable, finally. By 9, he was sleeping.
And a few hours later, my sister (napping in the recliner near his bed) woke up and found that in the 30 minutes she’d been napping, Dad had slipped away. She woke me up immediately at 1:30 a.m. We petted his face, kissed him, and called hospice. The hospice nurse was there within 30 minutes. By that time, I’d texted our neighbor Charles, who came over. We called our friend Billie, who dressed and came over. A few minutes after she arrived, her son Joe joined us. So there we were, with the hospice nurse, and we visited and talked and it felt so comfortable and natural. When the funeral home workers came a bit later, one of the two was actually one of our cousins. Again, more visiting and talking. By the time they were ready to leave, the second man told us his family was here, told us who he was related to, and once more we knew who he was talking about.
Then Kay and I were alone. We sat a bit, talked, and then began gathering what we would need for 9 a.m., when we were to meet the funeral home director to make plans for the services.
Small town life is very comforting at such times. We weren’t alone much, but instead shared that time with friends of such long standing that they’re family. Dad was with us, he left with one of our cousins (through our mother), and then Kay and I were alone to talk and plan and start the process of preparing for the next few days.
We got his suit and clothes to take with us. We sorted through hundreds of photographs to select just under 40 to bring to the funeral home so that they could scan them and make the memorial DVD that will play. Kay had actually already begun that process and we had such fun looking at photographs that went back to Dad’s childhood, to World War II, to his wedding to Mother, to our childhoods, to later. We found such wonderful memories as we sorted and selected. Happy, lovely photographs of Mother and Dad throughout their lives together; of Phil and Kay and me at various ages; of other family members; of friends. We found it difficult to actually settle on the 30-35 selected — and fudged with nearly 40.
I completed Dad’s obituary that I had begun a couple of days earlier. I paid some bills online. I texted my first cousins and then my close friends. I didn’t post on Facebook immediately, though, because Kay and I wanted to wait until she had talked to her daughter and let her know. We didn’t want someone else to tell her or for her to read it on Facebook.
Only when that phone call was over did I sit down at the computer and write a Facebook post about Dad’s death and our tentative plans for services.
Because we’ve lived in Egan so long, we knew we wanted to have something here. A 4-hour visitation at a local funeral home in Crowley on Thursday late afternoon/early evening would be where our many friends and Dad’s former co-workers could pay their respects. Some of my friends and some of my sister’s friends will also be here for that service.
But then Dad wanted to be buried in his hometown, the tiny Bland Lake Community near San Augustine, Texas. Not a problem: we’d learned it could be done when Mother died in 1993. Arrangements were no trouble; the funeral director here will contact the funeral home there and coordinate all the events and movements. Such a relief not to have to work through all that on our own.
We simply gave information, talked about our wishes, and then selected a casket and a few other items.
A few more minutes and we were gone, headed to one of the Crowley flower shops to select flowers. There was no discussion necessary, either — red roses, Dad’s favorite flower.
Then a few hours in Lake Charles allowed us to relax a bit. We stopped at the Starbucks near the university, then picked up one of my friends (her car was being serviced), and had a Lady Day — our shorthand for a manicure/pedicure. It was such a treat to relax and get pampered and then walk out with neat nails and hands and feet. And nicely painted coral toenails, too!
After a coffee break, another errand, and a brief stop at my house downtown, we were back on the road to Egan, back to the tasks we have to get through by Thursday and Friday.
A few more phone calls, and the funeral plans were done. A few more, and I’d talked to cousins and I’d related the tentative plans and time schedule.
At 9, Kay and I were eating homemade vegetable beef soup.
Now I’m writing this blog, and then I’ll turn off the lights and get some sleep.
More phone calls to make — but not necessary to make them right now. My eyes are so tired they hurt and I’m finding it hard to focus.
There’s a beautiful song by Nanci Griffith, a Texas singer-songwriter I’ve long enjoyed –“It’s a Hard Life.” The song has been looping in my head for a few days, but one line in particular: “Now I am the backseat driver from America, / I am not at the wheel of control.” That lyric and another one of hers from “Gulf Coast Highway” :
“And when we die we say we’ll catch some blackbird’s wing/ Then we will fly away to heaven come some sweet bluebonnet spring.”
Peace and love today, with rest already here, and journey’s end almost done.
I am not at the wheel of control, and it’s a sweet bluebonnet spring.