I’m not a reader. I have zero intention of reading any books about the stages of grief. Everyone processes things differently. This is my personal experience.
In my case the first stage was fear. Fear or the unknown.
When I got the call on Christmas morning my Mom Vicky told me that something had happened and that dad was in the ICU. He had been in the hospital for a different procedure that was supposed to have him home for Christmas. My mom and I have done this song and dance a few times in the past year, so I’ve learned to remain calm and allow my brain to process. My brain said, get your ass in the shower and get down there. I didn’t know what to expect. The hospital changes their covid protocols all the time. I figured even if I was in my car, I would be there to support her. We got there at almost the same time. No matter how smoozey I tried to be they were absolutely adamant that there was only one visitor per day. Even after explaining that we didn’t really know what was going on, and that our person was now in the ICU. That’s all we knew. After getting nowhere, I sent my mom up alone to see what was going on. I was directed to wait across the street at the food court. The closed food court in the empty building, alone.
It didn’t take long to realize that I needed my brother. He’s a whole other blog post. We are less than 2 years apart. We don’t share the same blood but he is definitely very special to me. We’ve seen each other through a lot, and he is a stoic rock. My sister Katie was in town with her husband and two kids. They stopped at the gas station and loaded up a cooler. There we were, Christmas Day all sitting there eating Westco string cheese waiting. Waiting to hear what happened, and what was going on. All we knew was our dad was on a ventilator and not conscious. They took him for some scans so my mom came to the food court to join us for a bit.
We would get alerts when something would post on his my chart. One of us would read the latest test result while the other would Google to see what it meant. Then my Moms phone rang. It was the unit nurse. The doctor wanted to talk with us. Suddenly the one person rule didn’t matter. There we were my Mom, Brother, Sister, and I. It was a quiet walk for the most part. Down the street, across the skywalk and you the elevator. We were directed to a small conference room with 5 chairs around a table. The doctor was sitting at the table when we walked in. We obviously all had masks on but her eyes looked heavy. My stomach dropped. This shit does not happen in real life, not in my life. This is strictly for TV. She proceeded to say a bunch of thing that all equated to our dad was going to die.
There were no decisions to make. We didn’t have to choose his care. His condition was, as she said it “non survivable”. How did we get here? I had just talked to him on the phone a couple of days earlier. He was feeling ok that day. He has had his struggles this past year, but he was never going to die.
The four of us went into his ICU room. The room was huge. There he was laying in the bed, just a frail frame. There was a toilet in the room but no door. We were all family so my brother went first and then of course I had to go. I had just picked up my new glasses and kerplunk right in the damn toilet. This came in second to the time my phone went into the toilet at a tattoo parlor. Always finding humor in the most uncomfortable situations.
So the one thing we knew for sure was that we had 4 other siblings that were on their way. We were told we could have as long as we needed with him. They really tried to limit the number of us in the beginning, but soon became lacks. My kids and niece and nephews were allowed to say goodbye to their grandpa. All of the spouses and his sisters and brother. My dad was 100% surrounded by love.
As a parent it’s a tough decision to make. I’ll never know if our decisions have been right or wrong, but they have always been given the option. My kids have experienced great loss in their lives. My mother in law was the first. That was 4 years ago already. I will forever have the memory of my kids crawling up in the bed after she passed, hugging her body while sobbing. A year later we lost my father in law. We were not present when he passed, but kids suffered the loss just the same.
Once all of the siblings were there the spouses and kids waited in the waiting room while we gathered at my dads bedside. There was a respiratory therapist that came in and removed the tube from his throat. The nurse did a nice job of explaining everything that was going to happen. All of the pumps were shut off and some last meds were given. We all stood there staring, and waiting. I thought it was something that happened fast. About 20 minutes later I thought for a second he was going to somehow be miraculously cured because he was not giving in. Then his breaths became slower and shallower. Until there was none.
I was exhausted. It was Christmas Day. I had such joy that morning having the kids all home and opening their presents. The afternoon was a roller coaster of not knowing what was going on. He was stable, then he was dying. Then the evening was numbing. You know when you’re exhausted, hungry, devastated and the only feeling you have is nausea. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Addison rode home with me. It was nice to have the company.
That night I tried to hard to sleep. My mind would not stop replaying everything from the day. I replayed every single thing over and over. I could smell my dad. I kissed him when he passed away and I could smell it. It wasn’t displeasing but wasn’t pleasant either. I couldn’t muster up the courage to wash my face. Death does weird things to you.