Saturday, June 22, 2013

Jonah's Dad

Yesterday started out like any other day.  Jonah and I woke up late like we have the past few weeks.  We wrote a couple of letters together; one to our HOA which is driving us mad with its rules, and another to the Parole Board regarding our friend who is in prison.

We were in the middle of our second letter when Jonah received a frantic call from his mom: Jonah's Dad was having trouble breathing and had become unresponsive.  We rushed to meet her and then discovered halfway there that Jonah's dad had been rushed to the hospital and Jonah's mom was with him.

Jonah and I got the the hospital about the same time as his brother and sister and their families.  We wandered the maze of halls until we found the emergency room.

Here's what had happened: Jonah's mom and dad had been on the way to the pharmacy to pick up some prescriptions.  They were at a stop light when Jonah's dad started having problems.  Jonah's mom tried to call 911, but in her panic (and because she had just recently gotten a brand new phone which she wasn't quite familiar with), she couldn't, so she called Jonah's sister, who called 911, and also called Jonah.

Jonah had a dream about two days ago about his deceased grandfather coming to visit his dad.  He was a bit troubled by it because Jonah's dreams often have great significance and he had wondered if it meant his dad, who has had many health issues, would pass soon.  But he didn't dwell on it...until yesterday.

Jonah felt very strongly that his dad would not make it, and I felt the same.

The medical team did all they could, but it was clear that Jonah's dad had suffered a massive heart attack and was beyond saving.  In the end, the doctors kept him alive on a machine that was doing 95% of the work, but there was no brain activity.

Some, like Jonah and his older brother and sister, knew it was time to let Dad go.  Others, like the middle siblings, had a much harder time and wanted to try and save him.  Jonah's second oldest brother and his youngest sister (older than him, but the youngest female sibling) had a particularly difficult time letting go.

It was clear to me that it was his time to go, and Jonah and his older brother helped the others realize that what was best in the long run was to let Dad go.

The hospital kept him alive so that everyone had a chance to say goodbye, and happily, nearly everybody in the immediate family, including their spouses and children, were able to do so.

Jonah spent so much time making sure everyone else was okay and taken care of that I worried he wasn't giving time to himself.  But such is the way with Jonah.  Everyone else always seems to come first.

While he was still alive, Jonah's dad was having small seizures which caused his eyes to involuntarily open, so it seemed that there was more life in him than there really was.  He was quite cold to the touch, though, and of course, completely unresponsive.  I'm sure his spirit could hear what each of us said, though.

I looked at him for a long time and then simply told him I loved him and left the room to give closer family members a chance to say their goodbyes.  Jonah sent me and another friend to McDonald's to get some food for people because, by this time, we had been at the hospital for quite some time.

By the time we returned, it was official: he was gone.

I went in one more time.  Jonah's sister was clinging to the body and stroking it and wailing, "We need to take him home!  We need to take him home!"  Jonah's mom was saying, "They need to take the body."  She was obviously sad, but pretty calm.  She's not one who likes big scenes.

Jonah's mom asked me to let the staff know we were ready for the mortuary to come and get the body.  Then we all went down to the cafeteria.

Jonah's brother told me what a good man I was and what a blessing I was in Jonah's life.  He also said his dad thought very highly of me.  That made me feel good.

I liked Jonah's dad a lot.  He made me laugh and we said some good talks.  Jonah said whenever he would go to the house without me, the first question Jonah's dad would always ask was, "How are the kitties?" and the second one was always, "How's Cody?"  He would ask if I was still working and what I was up to.  He would always ask me if I had brought snow from Utah with me.  I know he liked me, and I liked him.

I will miss him.  Looking at his body was a surreal experience; it was the same face and body, but none of the spirit and personality.  I will miss that.

We worry about Jonah's mom.  On one hand, she has spent pretty much her entire life serving her husband and tending to his needs, and particularly the last twenty years or so, she has been burdened with much of his medical care.  But she loved him and was with him for 50+ years.  I also worry that without him her life will lose purpose and that she won't know what to do with herself.

There are also financial concerns.  Jonah's dad's income was what was keeping them afloat, and his death will cut that in half.  It's a sad situation.

After we left the hospital, Jonah bought some snacks for a gathering at his mom and dad's house, and he and I took much needed showers at home.

We spent most of the night at his parents' house, and it felt weird to be there without him being there.  I feel sad for his dog, who he adored and who adored him.

Jonah's sister said her grand-niece had said she saw her great-grandpa out back in the garden, and the sister replied, "No, he's gone home to live with Jesus," but I went out back in case his spirit was hanging around.  I think children are much more perceptive than we give them credit for.

The garden, which Jonah's dad loved and tended, was very peaceful.  I was the only one out there.  I spoke out loud and said, "I don't know if you can hear me or not, and I'm sure if you can, you can hear me much better than you used to [Jonah's dad was hard of hearing].  I just want you to know that I'm happy I got the chance to know you.  I love you, and I love your son; I hope you know how much.  I know you're in a better place now, free from any health issues you had, and I'm sure you're feeling a lot of love right now.  Oh, and if you ever meet my dad, tell him hi for me."

I'd like to think that Jonah's dad was there and heard it.  I just sat in one of the chairs Jonah's dad used to sit in.  The weather was cool with a light breeze, and there was a full moon.  The garden seemed wrong without Jonah's dad tooling around back there (as Jonah's sister later said, "Dad was always back here doing something he wasn't supposed to be doing."  I sat back there for probably twenty minutes to a half hour before anyone ever came back there.  It was very nice.

I visited with family members.  Jonah's sister told me some pretty intimate things about her and her relationship with her dad.  She said that 42 years earlier she had been very sick, and Jonah's dad, who had been living a fairly rough, raucous life up until then, had talked with a minister in the elevator, who asked if he was willing to give up his life for Jesus in order to save his daughter's.  He was and he did.  He never looked back, and she, of course, lived.

She talked about how just yesterday she was thinking about asking Jonah and I if she could have her 25th anniversary party in our backyard and how excited she had been at the thought of her dad walking her down the aisle to "recreate" her wedding and how sad it was that he couldn't.  I told her, "Just because his body and spirit are separated doesn't mean he's not still with you."

I was there when Jonah's sister and sister-in-law were talking about funeral arrangements, and I thought, "This is going to be challenging with so many siblings and family members with so many different opinions about what needs to be done."

At one point I was in the house and Dad's chair was empty.  I'd like to think his spirit was occupying it.

Jonah's mom nor his dad would have wanted a lot of hoopla and will have wanted the funeral to be short.  I hope they get their wish.

Jonah and I said goodbye to his mom.  She finally broke down as Jonah hugged her.  She had broken down one other time that I saw at the hospital when her grand-nephew hugged her.

Jonah and I got home late.  We talked on the way about the things we would miss about his dad like his talking over people about random things because he was hard of hearing and couldn't follow the conversation at hand; the little tunes he would hum; the jokes he would make; how he would drive his family crazy sometimes; him sitting on the front porch or working on a car or sleeping with his dog, Batman, in the easy chair.

I will miss this man:

I wish his great-grandson would have had more time to get to know him.

1 comment:

Dean Scott said...

I am so sorry - my prayers to Jonah, his family, and you.