I caught the panic and fear in the little old man’s eyes from the foot of his bed as I gave report to the nurse in A pod. He was paler and seemed more distressed than 5 minutes earlier. I knew, at that moment, that was my father a few weeks earlier as he struggled to breath and then died in the ER in Camrose.
I caught his eyes and told him it would be alright and that these nurses would take good care of him.
My voice caught as I spoke and he nodded, as he was now unable to speak. Usually I avoid saying ‘it will be ok’ or ‘you will be alright’ as sure as shitting, they won’t, but I wonder now, if those words were more for me than for him. The words I never got to say to my dad, the words we long to give to comfort in some small way – to show we are aware of their fear, that we acknowledge it and share it and that we offer hope – that hope that it WILL be ok, that they WILL be alright. Words that tell them and you that we are tied together in our shared humanity.
I wondered, since my dad’s death, how I would deal with this when I was faced with it at work. My daily response has been to avoid it by working in the PICU where no grandfathers die. Each shift I am to work in the ER has been prefaced by a sense of not wanting to work there and a general unease – followed by a shift that I quite enjoy – and yet the grandpas come.
My older brother was able to reach out and touch dad’s spirit after he got the phone call. My younger brother saw dad’s handiwork in the earth shattering thunder storm that hit the area right after he died. My sisters have been silent on this topic. My mother has describe the event and I can almost feel what it was like for her to be there with dad as he died, but for me, I feel a loss of more than my father, a loss of the honour of being there to acknowledge his passing in his presence.
Grandfathers should die with their lives honoured and their fears recognized and acknowledged in someone else’s eyes………………….
I heard a few minutes later that he was being intubated and when I stopped by later after my shift was over, he was head down, tubed and on levophed. I hope he felt acknowledged.