Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sweet Release

I am home but a few minutes when the call comes. In the half~hour since I left, Dad’s oxygen has dropped to 47% and he has begun Cheyne~Stokes breathing, a sign that death is near. 

I hurry back into a car which, after many months, drives itself to the nursing home while I call my siblings. When I arrive Dad’s heart is bounding and irregular. Though still receiving supplemental oxygen, his saturation is now 23%, telling us the machine is doing the breathing, not Dad.

We gather 'round him, although two siblings who needed to return to their own lives amid this 12~day vigil are present by speaker phone. Hospice explains the oxygen can be turned off when we’re ready, and that we can expect three or four breaths before Dad slips away.

After a few moments, we give the word. The machine is turned off. And Dad breathes on his own for 20 more minutes. These breaths are not frantic or gasping, but automatic, shallow, moving only his shoulders. Such breathing does not oxygenate blood, with Dad’s saturation levels measuring first 3%, then 0%. And still he breathes.

Until he doesn’t. No movement. No sound. No heart beat.

If you had asked me to imagine my reactions at this moment, I would have predicted tears and a confused mix of emotions. What I feel instead is a wild, soaring joy. My father is released from an ailing body, from a life that had become increasingly difficult. I am happy for him, but this elation seems more than that. In the last several days, whenever I remembered to tune in and open up, I felt something in the room. An energetic presence. A quickening. A lightness. An effervescence.

Many believe that the veil between the worlds thins or parts at the time of death. This would explain the great inrush of energy I feel now and throughout the next few hours. It buoys me as I join two hospice aides in shaving Dad's two weeks of whiskers, in bathing and lotioning his body. It holds me as I lay beside that cooling body, whispering goodbyes, thank yous, support for and excitement about his continued journey. I feel it still when I return to his room after the funeral home carries his body away, as I sob my goodbyes at last, window open to the cold night air. 

This energy is so expansive, so good, so pure, that I have no doubt that Dad is enveloped by it. In fact, when I think to use the phrase “at peace” to describe him, it feels wrong. Dad feels “in joy” to me, at the time of his passing and in these hours since.           

And then something begins to shift, so gradually that I don’t recognize it at first. About six hours after Dad’s heart beat its last, the curtain is drawn once again. He is gone.

* * * * * * * *

Two weeks have now passed since Dad left us, days full of the emptiness of him. Grief rises and falls. Love remains. And gratitude.

Thank you, Dad, for your time among us. Thank you for sharing your passing, as I now share it with others. I love you. Blessed be and farewell.

Loanne Marie


Katy said...

Dear Loanne,
Thank you for sharing such a precious and sacred time with us. I read this as I am visiting my elderly father who has Alzheimer's and I know his 'time' is coming soon. Your description of your father's release was very reminiscent of when my Mom went to the other side. The thinning of the veils between worlds became very thin for a long time. it has been 8 years now~ I am so thankful for the wonderful, precious gift I was given in being with her as she slipped between the curtain. It only gets better Loanne with time! The grieving eventually stops, and gratitude for the experience of seeing life and death so intertwined in those hours expands. The energy released is with us forever.
With Love and gentle hugs in this difficult time to you

Loanne Marie said...

Thank you so very much, Katy! Life and death are indeed intertwined and some times we're lucky enough to KNOW it. Thank you for your very gentle cyber hug!

Connie said...

My dad died after a long hospitalization with esophageal cancer. When it became clear that he was not going to have the cure that his church had been praying for, they stopped visiting (except the pastor). It was like it was a failure for them or they felt that there was nothing else they could do. But to me, it was as if he was a burning bush through whom the Divine was speaking. The veil was very thin those last few weeks in the hospital and the presence of the Divine was palpable. And they missed that.

I had another experience at the funeral of a friend who died after a lengthy fight with ovarian cancer. I was sitting in her funeral full of sadness for all she had suffered and how she thought she would beat it and was so shocked when the doctor told her there was nothing more to be done. Tears were running down my face. Suddenly, it was like a breeze of joy blew right through me. I knew it wasn't from me because I was sad, not joyful. But it was blissful, beautiful joy and I knew it was her.

Loanne Marie said...

I'm so glad you got to experience your very own burning bush, as well as that breeze of joy. Lucky you were to be open to both. And thanks for sharing those experiences with the rest of us!

monica wood said...

Love does remain, always. So easy to forget in the depths of grief. Thank you, Loanne. These essays are such a treasure.

Anonymous said...

Dear Leia,
Thank you for sharing this very powerful and beautiful story of your father's passing. I too felt a degree of joy when my sister died, which was confusing at first and then comforting. Your discription of the time spent with your father helpped me have more insight into why I would have this feeling of joy. Our faith truely does hold us up in times of great sorrow. To know that there is a better place that has been prepared for us, our true home that we long for as we struggle with this life. Hope is in my heart that my sister is home and happy at last.
Love Cindy

Leia Marie said...

Yes, feeling joy at the moment of death is not what we expect and can feel a bit odd. But joy is joy and I trusted, as it seemed you did, that that meant something. I think most messages we get from "the other side" come in this kind of way~~not in visions or with voices, but in the FELT experience of something that's impossible to quantify.

Thanks, Cindy, for reading and for writing. May all our loved ones who have preceded us rest in joy. Enjoy!

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