I began drafting this post on my dad’s birthday. He turned 69 on March 17, and he won’t be alive to see 70.
My dad has been sick for a long time, acutely so for a couple of years. He’s currently in a nursing home and has been on hospice since August 2017. My gut tells me that he’ll pass away sometime in April–my gut could be wrong, but I hope it’s not. He’s suffered in a variety of ways for much too long, and his passing with be a tremendous relief for my mom–his caretaker for the past several years–and for me and my brother.
Still, the weight of his decline has bore down on me, especially lately. Grief can’t be avoided whenever a loved one prepares to or passes away, but his demise has been fraught with distress in a way that makes this process difficult to stomach. So much of this current state could have been prevented by just a few superficially uncomfortable conversations within our family. Planning for the end, hearing him share his fears–it would have helped ease this transition from one phase of his life–and our lives–to another.
That didn’t happen, though. And now his physical and cognitive health have declined to the point where such conversations are impossible.
Where I have no closure, I carry the guilt of living in a different state and not being present to physically aid my mom. I carry the guilt of the last few interactions we had, where I grew impatient with him and snapped at him and ignored him when I could have just sat with him, even in silence. I carry the guilt of not stopping in to see him more often when I was visiting during the time months ago when he was still lucid–of telling him “I’ll see you tomorrow before I leave for the airport, Dad,” and then not.
I feel the weight of knowing how relieved I’ll be when my mom contacts me with the news that the end is near or that it’s already come. I’m not the praying type but I pray as often as I can to take him–and that feels artificial, disingenuous.
This experience has taught me lessons and will continue to teach me lessons that I have yet to recognize. One that sears into me on the reg is that I need to have patience. I cannot do anything about the timeline that’s transpiring. Anything. I can’t heal him, I can’t end his suffering. Crying, drinking wine, snapping at my dog… none of these band-aids influence the situation at hand. They don’t help me hurt less.
What I can do is to recognize this weight on my shoulders and how it affects me in obvious and surprising ways. To give myself room to grieve when I’m triggered by something. To focus my time and attention on what’s positive. To be myself.
The only person more impatient than I am is my dad. But I’m not honoring him in any way by not being patient with myself at this time. That weighs on me, too.