My dad moved-on to the next life last week. Though the end snuck-up on us, going on ninety-five and with some medical kinks, his transition wasn’t shocking. Still, now he’s gone. And there just have to be some positive takeaways…

Human beings die, including me. Really, it’s one of life’s greatest wonders. So I’ll strive to be at peace with it – even embrace it.

Don’t know about you, but I’m not going to navigate through a tough time without making sure there’s at least one takeaway – positive, that is. I mean, awful times provide unique opportunities to learn and grow.

Do you agree?

The Beginning of the End

When he was placed on the facility’s memory care unit last spring, it became obvious to my brother and me that “Pop” was taking his final lap. And over the past few months we witnessed him steadily run out of steam. Yeah, it was hard – poor guy.

The Thursday evening before he died, I was feeding my dad some “dinner” – Ensure with a syringe. Not only was he not interested, he wasn’t even talking. I know now that his refusal of food and inability to speak were signs that his life was coming to an end. But at the time I figured it was just part of his exhausting race.

Well, I returned Saturday morning and I could barely absorb what I saw. Staff was getting my father out of his clothes and putting a gown on him. They then laid him down in his bed. I called my brother and suggested he come when he could, because it was obvious Pop could hit the finish-line anytime. I mean, you just know.

The End

My brother and I spent Saturday and Sunday at our dad’s bedside, doing all we could to somehow provide comfort. Given his unresponsive state, we had no idea if our efforts were at all effective. Heck, who knows? Maybe we were trying to comfort ourselves.

Heart-wrenching were the many moments of holding his hand and gently rubbing his forehead as he cycled through episodes of apnea then rapid-breathing, restlessness, and crying-out. And only during those episodes would he open his eyes. Looking directly into them, we could see what we believed to be, well, terror. It still haunts me.

At 5:00 a.m. Monday, my brother received the call. He then called me. Yeah…

Those 10 Vital Takeaways

How to mourn a loved one
1931: Pop in First Grade

Did we agree that tough times – even the worst – provide unique opportunities to learn and grow?

Well, that’s exactly what I was faced with that early Monday morning. Was I going to let my father’s death, and the two days of anguish preceding it, amount to nothing more than just another life experience?

No, I wanted – I needed – more.

As I sat by my dad’s bedside, it was 100% stimulus overload. So many good and bad things ran through my mind. Still do. But it’s these takeaways that continue to feel positive and lasting…

  1. Human beings die, including me. Really, it’s one of life’s greatest wonders. So I’ll strive to be at peace with it – even embrace it.
  2. There’s an educational opportunity in all of life’s experiences. For instance, in this case, I watched someone die. I also learned about hospice care, as well as the signs that dying is imminent. All will be helpful as I continue to serve others.
  3. I need to reach-out to others as much as I can, even when, say, certain levels of closeness feel uncomfortable. Touching my father wasn’t easy for me at the end, but I grew into it. And I’m glad I did.
  4. Just when I think my beaker’s overflowing, or my reservoir’s dry, I’ll immediately reconsider. Fact is, my capacity is much greater than I ever really knew.
  5. I’ll appreciate who my father really was, with objectivity and respect. Sure, he didn’t meet my every expectation and need. But there were legitimate reasons, including many on my side of the fence.
  6. I want to continue my father’s legacy, encouraging my children and grandchildren to do the same. He lived an honorable life and it deserves to be admired and remembered.
  7. Caring for the dying and mourning their passing is an individual experience. You can’t do either in an effort to suit someone else.
  8. There will be loneliness – space and time to fill. I’m going to choose creative and satisfying things to plug the gaps.
  9. Others are going to want to love and care about me. And I’m going to do my best to accept it, even if it challenges some boundaries.
  10. What better time to explore and develop my spiritual being? I just took part in life’s greatest mystery, perhaps triumph. Does freedom lie amidst the supernatural?

It’s a Wrap

You know, it doesn’t matter how equipped and prepared any of us may think we are when the death of a loved one, or another mega-traumatic event, occurs.

It’s just hard, and finding those positive takeaways really helps – during and after.

Ah, Pop. Well done, you lived a good and right life – and I love you. Though I’ll miss you, I’m thinking I’ll see you down the road. Thanks for everything…

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