I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible, so I decided to stay overnight at the hospital. As you may know, when you stay overnight as a guest, you don’t really sleep. The pull out bed is okay, but the nurse visits every 2-hours and hospital noises prevent sleep from happening. I figured that this discomfort was minor compared to what my dad was gong through, and in truth, it was an easy thing to do.
During those the late nights and early mornings, we had very tender moments together. I would sit by him and telling him I love him, stroke his hair, and hold his hand when he felt pain or was having a procedure done.
Then there were the times when he responded to me. These times were what I held on for. One night, when he fell asleep, I kissed his forehead and whispered “goodnight”. As I got up to walk to my bed, he said “You’re leaving already?” I recognized that tone. It was a tone he used when I would tell him I was going home after a weekend visit with him. “I’m not going anywhere dad. I’m right here. Do you want me to sit with you?” “Yes” he replied so I sat next to him, holding his hand and loving him.
There were a few of these moments, when he would wake in the middle of the night. I could hear the shuffling of his sheets and that usually woke me up. “You okay dad? You want me next to you?” To which he would reply “yes”either verbally or with a head nod.
At other times my father would ask where he was, what happened, or how he got there. I told him he had an infection, but that it was gone, and we were preparing to take him home. I had no idea if he knew he was dying, and didn’t know if I should tell him.He wasn’t speaking much, and was unable to have conversations, much less complex conversations. I decided to trust my father’s intelligence and strong intuition, and stayed in each moment with him.
As he slept I reassured him that he was safe and loved. I asked him to trust his body as his body knew what to do. I let him know that although I would miss him, I would be okay in this world because he taught me well, both in lesson and by example. He was a strong man, and created strong women.
One day, my father asked my sister what he did. “¿Que hice?”. He asked as if to say “What did I do wrong to get me in this situation?” That night I cried and asked for some clarity on how to help my father. Then it hit me.
As a child, my father was loved, but also abused. His mother would hit him, sometimes with force and use of objects. She was angry at his behavior and took it out on him. Then when she was done, she would hold him and cry. “Why do you make me do this?” she pleaded. For years I wondered how this played out in my father life. How did this twisted experience impact him? Did he, like most children, believe the lie that he was wrong and deserved punishment?
I remembered his words “¿Que hice?/What did I do?”, and I leaped out of bed, and rushed to his side. “Dad, you did nothing wrong. You are child of God and as such, you are perfect, whole, and complete. You did nothing wrong. I don’t care what your mother, your father, or anyone else has said. You did nothing wrong and you are not wrong or bad.”