A year ago on March 14th my dad died of Alzheimer’s. I didn’t sleep well last night because despite being on my honeymoon, I still wake up around 2:44AM, the time he died. It is as if my body thinks I still need to be on the alert. Last night I woke up at 2 AM but was able to fall back asleep.
I finished reading Uma Girish’s book, Losing Amma, Finding Home. I was impressed how stunningly sensitive Uma’s recount of losing her mother to cancer and then her father 18 months later seemed to flow out of her naturally.
I have tried to write about the last week with my dad while he was on hospice, but I have not shared my writing with anyone other than my critique group, and even then I have decided to delay revising the piece, finding it too draining to recall the painful wasting away of my dad until Alzheimer’s claimed him. My critique group had told me my writing about his death was unemotional, even a little clinical in its recitation of facts, but I really didn’t have time to feel anything right after he died. I had to snap into administration mode to notify next of kin and call the hospice nurse, who was not present when my mom, a young Rite at Home aide, and I saw him take his last breath. The aide departed almost immediately after taking his pulse and verifying he had passed away. Mom and I were left to deal with things. We had only three days to plan his funeral, and I had only one day to write the obituary. I composed his eulogy with the help of my mom to recall the happier times of his life. For many months after I seemed to remember nothing about his good days and only of the horror of seeing a loved one die. I was afraid not to touch him after his last rattling breath. Mom said he was still warm.
Determined to make it a good day, I said a silent prayer asking God to remind me that Dad is at peace, and I will see him again when Jesus comes. I don’t like waiting. Life is just not the same without him, and I have become tired of making excuses not to function on my bad grief days. One of my favorite clients, Ron Schelegel, who has worked for many years helping veterans overcome post traumatic stress, had generously agreed to barter some time with me in addition to his paid hours to sort out my grief with the aid of a technique called Psych-K. I have found my sessions with Ron incredibly helpful and can feel a release in my chest whenever I “download” a positive statement from Ron, who is always reminding me I can give myself permission to live and love to the fullest.
For eight sessions, I had seen a local grief counselor in Gardnerville, but since my health insurance covered very little, I stopped going because I could not justify the costs because of the inconsistent income my home business takes in. By the Monday before Steve and I left for our vacation, I had started to sob and collapsed on the bathroom floor of our home. I felt emotionally, spiritually, and physically exhausted from insomnia, four weeks of vertigo, stress from my business, and grief. There was a reason why Steve and I planned our vacation for March. I wanted to be nowhere near the place where Dad died, the master bedroom of my mom’s house. He had wanted to die at home, but going into that room brings back painful memories of giving him liquid morphine and swabbing his mouth with water when he could no longer sit up to drink or eat. To this day we have still not decided what to do with his clothes and shoes, which still occupy space in the closet, although by now my mom had paid for the room to be cleaned and the walls painted.
I began today emotionally numb, not really able to put my finger on my feelings. Steve and I boarded a bus to our Dragon Cave excursion.
I have visited caves before but not one that included a string quartet playing classical music. Somehow they had figured out how to fit an organ on the rowboat with the musicians. The music was so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes. We had the option to ride in the rowboat to the exit but I opted to take the bridge, which was quicker.
After the cave we enjoyed a ham and cheese sandwich and caught up on email.
The bus took us back to Palma de Mallorca, Spain, where we visited a cathedral.
Steve’s allergies were acting up so we passed a colorful ally and found a pharmacy that sold cold medicine.
We decided to return to the ship early for a siesta.
Dinner started with a spinach dish.
And vegetable skewers.
I ordered a wild berry dessert.
Tomorrow Steve and I will spend the day at sea and then return to Rome and wrap up our Costa cruise.