Cheryl from Maryland
End of Life Event:
My father suffered and died if colorectal cancer. He did not go to college and gave up much to make sure my brother and I received an education. He would say “Honey you don’t need a guy you need an education”. He kindly offered to take me to my prom should I go unasked. That is a man that wanted his daughter to have what he did not. When he was unable to work he would look forward to my visits from college but made it clear my studies came first. I was struggling with my desire to come home and yet not to disappoint. My college advisor said: “Go home whenever you want to be with your dad. Just tell me the grade you think you would have gotten and I will make sure you get it.”
I went home often and he died two weeks before the end of the semester. He was quite ill and I showed him a report with the grade I thought I would get. He smiled and said: “I knew you would do well but you should work on your chemistry grade—it’s an A-.” I said I couldn’t do any better because it was hard.
He smiled and told me: “If it wasn’t hard, it was not worth pursuing.” So I knew he felt I had honored his request, and did not let his illness get in the way. I knew then, and now, that dying can be difficult, and drawn out. That loss accompanied my having had a great relationship with my dad. I miss him daily. He would have been proud of me and have made sure I was not too hard on my kids. I also know he died confident I knew my priorities. Living is what you do until you die, and I honored his request to be the best I can be.
Words of Wisdom:
As an oncologist I see absent families and patients that do not tell their children. I tell them to give their children the gift of a lifetime, knowing they shepherded their parents thru the dying process. I had that opportunity.
Kit in California
End of Life Event:
My brother passed away suddenly without having made any arrangements in case of his death. We did not know what his wishes were. His children ranged in age from 22 to 8. And, none of them had any money for a burial or cremation. Fortunately, my husband and I were in a position to pay for his cremation, and we had a “remembrance of his life service.”
What I’d wish I’d known at the time:
What would my brother have wanted? A burial? A cremation? If he’d wanted the cremation, where should we have scattered his ashes? Tell someone or write it down somewhere, put it with wherever you keep your important papers. It doesn’t matter your age. My brother was only 48.
Sue in Oregon
End of Life event:
My first experience with someone dying was my dad who passed five years ago. I was not familiar with any of the stages of dying. When I arrived at the Care Center he was well into the dying process. His eyes were closed and his breathing was labored.
The hospice nurse was so kind, explaining the physical changes taking place and what would be coming. I’ve always believed that a person who is not conscious or otherwise unable to respond can hear and are very much aware of what may be going on around them. I believed this was true for my dad even though he had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. The hospice nurse agreed and told me from her experience she believed that the closer the body comes to shutting down, or dying, the more alive the spirit becomes: it’s about to break free!
As a Protestant Christian I was looking at my dad’s dying through eyes of faith. I believe in the Bible’s teaching about Heaven and Hell, and I believe all of the claims that Jesus made about Himself. A few years earlier, my oldest daughter had talked to her Grampy on the phone, explaining salvation to him, that it was trusting Jesus to forgive our sins and give us access to Heaven through His shed blood on the cross. She said my dad listened very carefully and asked her to repeat what she had said at times for full understanding. At that point on my daughter believed her Grampy was heaven-bound.
I was not sure. My dad was having a lot of trouble remembering, and his condition rapidly declined, with confusion, agitation, sundowners, and all of the heart-wrenching behavior of the disease. We put him in a Memory Care Center because my mom was completely worn out from caring for him. When I arrived, my family and I began talking to my dad, even though he was not able to respond. We thought we’d have many hours to talk with my dad before he passed. About six hours later, my sister called from the East Coast—desperate to talk to dad. I held my cell phone up to his ear and he heard my sister say she loved him and was coming to him. She also told him that it was okay if he didn’t want to wait for her. He died within the next minute.
I believe he was waiting to hear her say she loved him and know that everything was alright between them. Dad bypassed many of the steps of dying, which I now understand can happen. Not all dying is the same as the hospice booklets explain.
I felt completely broken. I had more things I had wanted to say to him, and I didn’t know where my dad was! A few days later I was sitting on Dad’s bed and picked up Our Daily Bread. I was a few days behind in the reading so I picked up on the 28th, the day dad died. The title of the reading was Finally Home, and the verses for the story were Jesus’ words in John 14: ”Don’t let your heart be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may be where I am.” Tears of joy and relief splashed on my face. Jesus had just told me my dad was with Him. I carry this comfort with me each day, knowing I will get to see my dad again someday.
Words of Wisdom:
I think to be better prepared for the death of a loved one it would be good to read information on the actual dying process and know that it is the NORMAL way of death, no matter how abnormal or surreal it may feel. Sue
Lilan B. Starford, McConnell’s Mills, PA
End of Life Event:
It was a late Pennsylvania May, and a bit early to go swimming in McConnell’s Mills Creek. The waters rushing down from the mountain were pure and wonderful, but very cold at this time of year. Being young and self-absorbed, I wanted to be the first to do anything. Running far ahead of the others, I made a shallow dive among the huge rocks. When I surfaced, it was so cold I could not move. I felt totally paralyzed and that death was eminent. Even if someone had been close enough to hear me, they could not jump in to save me. In distress, I called out to the Lord saying, “Please don’t let me die because I know I am going to Hell.” To this day, I do not know how I got to the rock shore. One second I was frozen in the middle of the creek and the next second sitting on a large rock on the shoreline. Being a very proud fifteen year old, I did not tell anyone what had happened, but just warned them that it was very cold and that they should stay out of the water.
Words of Wisdom:
Six years later I was born again in a little house that served as the beginning of the Baptist church, where I would raise my daughter and serve for twenty-four years. During my years of studying the Bible, I found some teaching about angels in Hebrews 1:14, that seemed to fit my situation: Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation. It is my firm conviction that, if it were not for these ministering spirits, none of us would live long enough to get saved.