Saturday, August 14, 2010


Since my dad's death last March, I've been somewhat obsessed with understanding what he went through after his stroke and the coma which ended with his death 24 hours later. Shortly after his death I was obsessed constantly, now it only hits me every now and then, in that I go on these research binges here and there, just trying to understand.

I'm sure I will be told I should see a therapist. But you know, I don't have time for a therapist, so this is my therapy. I write about it. That and I've got dad's medical records and will be obtaining the images of his brain taken at the hospital. The folks at the hospital were incredibly helpful, even referring me to their chaplain if I needed anything. I need to get those images. I need to see what his brain looked like. Why? Because I need to be able to imagine what he was thinking and feeling in his last hours.

There is the belief that in a coma, consciousness exists so long as the individual is breathing. The brain stem controls hearing and it is generally accepted that coma patients can hear since that is controlled by the brain stem and the last of the senses to deteriorate when a person is dying. I am certain dad heard us when we talked around him. That said, I just need to know what was going on in his brain during those final hours.

I believe God works in mysterious ways and everything happens for a reason. I believe there is a reason he was not meant to get to the hospital sooner. The doctors might have administered the t-PA in the first three hours but according to the doctors it likely would not have had any effect. Dad's health was already going downhill when he had the stroke. That said, we know that dad did not want to live in a state in which he could not care for himself. That was very important to him and he made us promise him we would never let that happen. I think he always worried mom would not be able to make that choice.

For dad, it was about quality of life and never having to rely on his family or others to take care of his basic needs. He wanted to go to the bathroom on his own, feed himself, and not require someone to wipe the drool from his face. I believe that God helped dad and us by taking away our choice. After dad's stroke, mom went into a state where she was unable to rationalize the events taking place, which impeded her ability to make a choice. I believe God worked through her by removing her ability to rationalize so she would not be in the position to make the choice. Looking back, there has never been a moment that I wished things had gone differently because you have to be careful what you wish for. And none of us could have lived with ourselves if dad had lived----but in a state he always wanted to avoid. In reality, dad died in peace. That is what he wanted and that's all that matters.

In the end, I think my need to understand the last hours of his life has something to do with coming to terms with my own mortality. Dad's death made me realize finally that I am not going to live forever. When a person who is a rock in your life dies, it does make you rethink things. And it is no wonder in the past year and a half I've been pondering my life's meaning. Everyone says "oh don't worry about what your purpose is, just live" but they don't understand what's behind it. To understand life I have to understand death. If every now and then I have to question my purpose here by rehashing dad's death I guess that's what I have to do. I have to believe his death meant something, that it wasn't in vain, that it is supposed to teach me something.

The "need to know" mood hits me only occasionally and perhaps when it does that's when dad is working through me. I know he's with me all the time, as long as you remember someone they always remain with you. But when it hits me I have to go with it. I'm drawn to it. And sometimes we can't escape our destiny. In any case, I'll continue doing what I have to do to deal with this in my own way, crazy as it may seem. And I'll keep talking about it, and you guys will keep reading it. And what will be will be.

1 comment:

  1. With me it's just the opposite. I try the best I can not to think about that last night, and when I do, I have to change the images and memories to the time he was here at home with me. It's impossible for me to keep dwelling on it. I know I can't change the past. I really feel that what happened and the timing of it was the way Dad had wanted it. He didn't even want to go to the hospital, he wanted to stay home, but that choice was taken away from him because I wanted them to save his life, not thinking, at the same time, that it might have turned out to be just what he hadn't wanted.

    I can't help you, or change your feelings about this. It's something you will have to come to terms with, as you've said Jess. All of us have been trying to deal with it in our own ways.

    The one thing I am sure of is that Dad wanted us to be close to each other and learn from the things he taught us. Knowing how he felt about everything, I don't believe he'd want you to dwell on his death, but rather, to think about his life and to always remember how much he loved us and wanted each of us to be happy.