Sunday, August 17, 2008

When you have to say "Good-bye"

This week I have been reminded of my own mortality more than once. Between updating our will, lessons at church and home teachers, I have found myself pondering the subject of death. Today, at church, we had a beautiful lesson in Relief Society about death and the eternal plan Heavenly Father has for us. It brought back many memories and tender feelings from when I lost both of my parents. It made me so grateful to know about Gods plan, to know I have a part in it, and to know that everything is all part of one eternal round.
Death affects so many people. I have a sister in law who lost her brother to a terrible accident. A dear friend who lost her infant hours before he was born. A brother and sister in law who lost their sweet three year old son to meningitis and another brother and sister in law who lost their daughter to SIDS. I can’t even fathom the heart wrenching pain that must come from loosing someone so close. Parents are expected to die before their children. But everyone shudders to think of a child who is lost too early. I can only hope that the Savior sends his comforting peace to be with those who have lost someone so dear. I believe He does. I believe He offers comfort to all those who seek it. I have personally, only experienced the death of my parents. These are my feelings about that experience.
My dad was simply amazing. Anyone who knew him could tell you. He was the kind of man that loved everybody and everybody loved. He was kind and rarely raised his voice. He was a band teacher for many years and always played “big band” songs on the piano. My dad started showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s around 70. Part of him died long before his physical body did and it was as though I had to say two goodbyes. Slowly, over the 15 years my dad suffered with Alzheimer’s, he began to forget names, places and stories. He drifted back to an infantile state, needing help to do the most basic daily tasks that I always take for granted. His confident stride became an unsteady shuffle and while he knew I belonged to him, he could never vocalize my name during those last years. This kind and gentle man became a force to be reckoned with when the nurses tried to help him with “personal tasks”. His years of being a musician were so engrained into his soul that the piano was the last thing he forgot. In fact, for many years, my mom would take a portable keyboard to his nursing home to help keep him more alert. And it worked. While he could play, he was more active. It was only the last few months before he died that he started to forget to play the piano, and eventually stopped playing all together.
Dad gave us a little “warning” that it was his time to go. We got a call from the nursing home that said he had stopped breathing but had started again on his own. I immediately went down there as did my brother who was in town. My sister flew in from California and a few more siblings began to trickle in. My sister and I took turns staying by my dad’s side. Hospice was there and taught us how to swab his mouth and help him get comfortable. Three days after his “warning” dad quietly left this world. Though my sister and I had been by his side non-stop, he passed away about 10 minutes after we both left for a break, leaving him with my brother. My brother tells me that dad just didn’t want to leave his little girls so he had to wait until we were gone. I believe him.
Five months later, I was by my mom’s side when she passed from this world. The situation was completely different. Even though my mom’s health was never ideal she had enough fire in her soul to make us all believe she would live forever. She was quite the “firecracker” to coin her own phrase. My mom was so sad after my dad passed. Even though he had been in a nursing home for a few years, she was still very much in love with him and needed him so much. Part of her died when he did. So when she got pneumonia, she didn’t have it in her to recover. After being hospitalized for a couple weeks, she was sent to rehabilitation center to help continue her recovery. I got a call from them about 5 am on a Monday morning. They said she was being taken to a hospital, her vitals were bad and they thought she had an infection. I didn’t think too much of it, but hurried to the hospital anyway. I figured we would be out by the end of the day. I was brand new pregnant with B and so sick. I remember having to eat raw snow peas while I was in the ER with her so I wouldn’t throw up. I was also trying not to pass out the whole time. Those who know me know that once I get pregnant, I start passing out. At about 12:30 my mom had settled into a restful sleep. I decided to go home, only a couple minutes away, to eat and rest. About 2:45 I felt a sudden urge to get back to the hospital. I waited for the kids to get out of school at 3:00 and made arrangements for them. On the way to the hospital, I received a call from the ER nurses. They said my mom had stopped breathing. By the time I got there, she hadn’t been breathing for about 15 minutes, but her heart was still beating. I was there, holding her hand, when her heart stopped. It was as if she was waiting for me to get back to the hospital. I hadn’t expected my mom to die so I was a little more emotional than when my dad passed. Still I was so grateful for the chance to be there.
In fact, I feel so blessed that I could be there for both of my parents passing. It was as if I was sending them into the next world. I remember, with my dad, during the quiet final moments that heaven felt so close. I have heard that there are two times when heaven and earth meet. During birth and during death. I believe that with all my heart. I felt heaven both those times. And even though I was sad and miss my parents daily, it was such a beautiful experience to send them into the next life.
I had been taught my whole life about the plan of salvation; life after death and the purpose of this life. But it wasn’t until I experienced the death of my parents that it all made sense. The Lord does have a plan for us. And, just as we lived before this life, we will live after it. Death, while sad, is only another step in Gods eternal plan. I was comforted knowing I would be with my parents again, in their most healthy state. I was comforted knowing that I am sealed to my family. I am so grateful that I was able to experience this. My parents always taught me well. They did their best to help me understand the most important things in life. And I believe this was their last teaching moment they gave to me. I miss them. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of one of them. But I know I will be with them again. It is that belief that sees me through.

2 comments: said...

This is beautiful! I just might have tears running down my face. I will never forget either of tose days and I have felt them both so close so many times. I know they are so happy to be together and be done with the illnesses that their mortal bodies had to deal with. I am so grateful for the Plan of Salvation.
I miss them too. said...

p.s. I was just thinking how cool mom would think blogs are.