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Losing my father to cancer and experiencing those last days with him in hospice was my lemon. Turning that into an opportunity to live a fuller life and take good risks is my lemonade.
I was always very close to my Father. Although he was small in stature, he stood tall in my eyes. He was always there for me through many troubling times in my life. In his late 70’s he was diagnosed with cancer that had riddled his body with extreme pain.
He went through many hospital stays, surgeries and treatments for five years, and each time came through with mental positivity. He was strong of will and independent. In those last five years he spent his time going to feed the ducks, fishing off the pier, watching the birds and finding peace in his life.
His last emergency run to the hospital ended with a trip to a hospice unit. In those days, hospice was not well known, so I was frightened of death and losing the person closest to me. But my Father made it clear to me that he was done with all of the hospital stays, surgeries and treatments and that from now he was not going to talk, eat or drink. He said it was his time and he wanted to let go.
He was there for three days and received loving and constant care from the entire staff, along with many doses of morphine to ease his pain. The nurses attended to his every need, as well as to our family’s needs. They kept us apprised of each step in the process of dying and by doing so we felt more at ease. My children and I spent the next couple of days living in his room, talking to him, hugging him, telling him how we felt, and finding comfort in the family room that always seemed to be stocked with foods and others going through the same experience. There was also a diary where many of us wrote of our experience in the hospice.
The night my beloved Father passed away, he was surrounded by many family members. I lay on the bed next to him and watched his shallow breathing.
One of the nurses standing by leaned over and I heard her whisper in his ear, “Bob, it’s time to take your cane and go” … and with those words, I felt his last breath on my face as he did just that. He let go.
When everyone had gone, I decided to stay with my Father until the funeral directors came to take him to the funeral home. I spent my time sitting by him and writing his eulogy. Seeing my Father pass away at the hospice gave me a new perspective on life and how I wanted to live mine. It showed me that although life is very precious, the dying process is also most precious. A time to give the ultimate love one can give, to make amends if necessary and not to be afraid.
Since his death I have forced myself to do the things I was afraid of, take more risks and chances and find happiness in every day.