Tomorrow is technically the year anniversary of my dad's death, except it feels more like today because it happened on a Saturday and probably the only potentially bullshitty spiritual thing I believe in relationship to my dad's death was about it happening on a Saturday. With all the bizarrely insensitive hospice nurses coming through his house and pushing born-again agendas and various beliefs about the afterlife, the lone questionable pronouncement that made sense to me, spoken by my dad's wife, was that my dad had waited to die on a Saturday because he liked working so much and wouldn't quit until the weekend. If doctors think that sometimes people can hold out for birthdays or anniversaries or some event that they've been waiting for through sheer determination, then I didn't think it was totally unlikely that my dad would have insistently finished out the work week.
Last night was hard for me because it was Friday night last year that I took the shift staying up to watch my dad all night. He was in a bed near the windows and sliding door out to his yard, and I was lying on the couch, watching him, with my dog curled up against my side. I wouldn't say I believe in god, but god bless dogs. This would be my dad's last night and obviously, I didn't know that, but I did, sort of. His breathing had changed and the days had gone by without him eating or drinking, and the morphine was really accruing in his system.
While lying there, watching him, I thought a million times that I should go pull up a chair next to his bed and just start telling him a million things. I think my dad knew I loved him, and I think he knew I was appreciative of how much he loved me, even though I would get exasperated with him for OCD-calling for the fifteenth time in a day and not leaving a message. But I kept thinking that he should know more. That he should really understand how thankful I was for how great of a father he'd been.
Except I couldn't do it because I was filled with terror that he'd hear how much I loved him and how devastated I was that he was dying (and dying so early), and then he'd be, even if just momentarily, woken to the unbearable sadness of this "being it" and the panicky awareness of the end. In the past few years I've developed a pretty serious fear of flying and when people try to run stats by me and tell me that I won't even be conscious when the plane hits the ground or blows up, I have to explain to them that it's not the actual death. It's the seconds or minutes of horror of knowing that something has gone wrong, and not the end result-- just the horror inside the capsule. And that's what was gutting me as I tried to go tell things to my dad that night. Not that he was dying, which was its own sadness, but it was the horror of him contemplating everything that was going down, having to live his last night feeling his grief and even worse, mine. I was his youngest and his only girl and he wanted to protect from everything, and I knew that.
So I never ended up pulling over a chair. I've thought a lot about that decision over the past year because I churn over whether he knew how important he was to me and then I churn over what happened when I began to do the summary of our relationship while he was still conscious in the hospital. I tried to start telling him what he meant to me and how right he had done by me, and I made tears begin to stream down his face, and I think that killed both of us. Friday night a year ago, I just half-woke him every few hours to administer the morphine and his eyes would open for a second and I'd say, "Hi dad" with a lot of love. It crushed me to think about wringing anything more out of those moments.