Let me back up...
You may remember that my dad suffered a stroke at the end of September. It was scary, but other than a slight facial droop, there was no paralysis and the doctors expected a full recovery. He was only in the hospital overnight and we were hopeful he would soon be back to normal.
A month later, right about the time I left for the Virgin Islands, things still weren't right. My dad hadn't been able to sleep because, for reasons that couldn't be explained, his back hurt really bad. He couldn't eat solid foods. He could sort of tolerate soft foods and liquids, but it was hard to swallow and food just wouldn't go down. His symptoms were dismissed by his doctors and he was getting frustrated. Finally, after being told there were no appointments available, dad walked into his doctor's office on October 18th insisting that something was wrong. They gave him a muscle relaxer and sent him home. The next day, he went to InstaCare insisting that something was wrong. They gave him a steroid and sent him home. The next day, he went to the Emergency Room insisting that something was wrong. They admitted him.
|Dad - finally resting in the hospital|
Dad left the hospital on Wednesday, October 26, the day he was diagnosed. By Thursday night, my brother was worried dad wouldn't be around long and encouraged us to come to Nevada. I headed out the next morning.
That weekend was another tender mercy. All seven kids were there and we had some really special moments with my parents. Dad told stories and shared memories. We discussed his treatment options. Dad needed to know that we were each okay with his decision to forgo treatment. We cried a lot, but there was plenty of laughter, too. Dad was too sick to attend church, but he wanted each of his kids to be there. Afterward, my brothers administered the sacrament for my parents which was a sacred experience I'll never forget. In typical dad fashion, dad took the biggest piece of sacrament bread even though he hadn't eaten any solid food for at least a couple of weeks. But then he asked if we had any question about his standing with Heavenly Father. We didn't. That's another tender mercy, knowing that dad was right with God and realizing the blessing of being raised by this great man.
|The whole family together for two days.|
When we called his oncologist to ask about hospice, she was shocked. She had seen him four days earlier and estimated he might make it six months without treatment. Even when hospice came in, I don't think they realized the magnitude of the situation. No one seemed to realize how rapidly dad was declining but us. Some meds were switched, but we were left alone to sit up with dad during the long, grueling nights. He had pain in his chest, his back and up and down his right side. He couldn't swallow his own mucous, but was too weak to cough. It was heartbreaking. For whatever reason, hospice nurses couldn't give him IV meds at home so the night before I left, he was taken to a hospice facility to try to manage his pain. Shortly after arriving, he slipped into a coma. We thought the new pain meds were finally helping him sleep. We didn't know he wouldn't wake up again.
I said my goodbyes as I left early the next morning. It was hard to leave knowing it would be the last time I'd see my dad alive. I wished I could hear just one more, "I love you, baby." I arrived home late that afternoon. Early the next morning, on November 5, my mom called to tell me that my dad had peacefully passed away.
Ten days from devastating diagnosis to death. But even in death, the Lord was merciful. We had time together at the end and dad didn't have to suffer for long. For those tender mercies, I am so grateful!