I wanted to share the story of my journey from atheist to believer. My mind changed based because of several experiences I had with my father the last week of his life...
My father found out her had terminal Lung Cancer (extensive stage small cell with mets in both lungs, neck lymph nodes, and later found out several in his brain) in late April. In mid May we tried Chemotherapy. Our intentions were not to cure, but to shrink the cancer a bit to allow easier breathing and possibly give him some more time with us. We also could have went with hospice then and there. (The choice to not do hospice then still bothers me. But I had to let him do what he felt was best for him.)
At first things seemed well. He handled the chemo like a boss. Didn't feel too tired.. things seemed great. He was happy and confident he made the right choice. Around day 5, something drastically changed. He got huge blisters all over his legs and feet. It was a rare reaction to the chemo...
As the days passed his blisters were just getting worse and worse which made walking very difficult for him. He got transferred to a rehab center to help him learn to use his walker. Before the Chemo he was able to walk around... but after that first week, he would never be able to walk on his own again.
He was in the rehab center only about a week before we got the terrible news that he had contracted pneumonia. At this point my father had been in the hospital and rehab a combined total of 27 days. He was tired. He refused antibiotics and had me call the hospice.
We called hospice on a Tuesday am. They had everything set up in my home by Wednesday and he came home that evening.
It was really weird because at first, he was almost himself. Granted he needed help walking around, using the bathroom etc..but he had this HUGE burst of life and energy. And all he wanted to do was talk to me. About life, his childhood... my childhood. The circumstances were not the greatest... but I never felt so close to him.
I asked my father several times over this whole thing if he thought we would see each other again and each time he would say no. He told me that if it made me feel better to pray, I should do it... but it meant nothing. Sigh... I still asked. It was like in my mind, even as a non believer, if he could believe, then I knew I could... but it didn't happen.
That Saturday my dad's best friend came in from NYC. They got to spend time together and say some goodbyes. It was almost like my father was waiting for him because that is where things got bad. After my dad's friend left, my dad was in a lot of pain. He just could not get comfortable... and he hardly slept.
The following morning, Sunday he started to not know where he was. He was able to recognize the kids and I, but he thought we were on a boat and heading to an island. He kept telling us we had to be careful because the crew couldn't be trusted. Both my dad and I were on less than 1 hour sleep. It was pretty brutal.
Throughout all this he was still letting me help him walk, eat his meals, and use the bathroom. The hospice suggested a sleeping pill. He took it no problem. My bedroom was next to his... and when he finally went to sleep, so did I...
I remember it was around 12am when I felt really warm. I can not explain it... almost like someone put blankets from the dryer on me. So I sat up, and standing in the hall without his walker or help was my dad. I sprang up, yelled for my husband and literally caught my father before he could fall. My husband helped my dad to the chair and I laid on the floor bawling my eyes out. I felt so guilty for failing because I didn't hear him get up.
At this point my father no longer remembered that he had lung cancer. He didn't understand why he was so weak he could not walk. I asked the hospice nurse and the doctor on call if they thought he would come back to us and that he would remember where he was. They told me with the size of the mets on his brain and the infection, I am lucky he still knows who I am.
The hospice brought me a baby monitor. And my husband, oldest son, and I all took turns sleeping in shifts. At around 7 pm my dad was very upset. (This was Monday night). He told me he would be to the island soon, but he had to figure out the numbers first so we could be safe. I had no idea what any of this meant, but he asked for pen and paper. I gave it to him and he did what looked like some math and wrote out some numbers.
We gave him another sleeping pill, and my son fell asleep in the chair next to him. My husband and I were awake in the room next to him. We had the baby moniter, and were going to try and do sleeping in shifts.. but he (my husband) had what we believed to be a minor case of food poisoning. So I was between helping my dad and helping him as well.
I don't remember the exact time, I want to say it was roughly 2am but I head a strange sound on the moniter. Like someone going through a drawer. I called out to my son, he didnt answer. So I walked to the bedroom and as soon as I got to the doorway, I see my dad take a lighter to his oxygen tube. HUGE rush of flames as I instinctually pulled the plug to his oxygen machine. My husband ran to our son as I went to aide my dad.
Somehow he remembered a stash of cigs and where he hid his lighter. It was his bedroom and I honestly never thought to hide things. He had quit smoking 2 months ago and had been doing great at it. To this day I still blame myself.
He had some burns and the hospice told us that we should call an ambulance despite my father's wishes. When we were in the hospital, he started to forget who I was... or anything that was going on. The ER doctor told me that I could keep him there. That dealing with a dying person with dementia is hard for professional care takers emotionally and that he could not imagine what it was doing to me and my family.. I thanked him, but said I would please like to take my dad home... and a few hours later, I did.
All afternoon I sat with him. He randomly yelled... cursed. Talked more about getting to the island...telling us we were lying, he was never sick. He did not even remember the fire.
He finally fell asleep and I just broke down. I prayed..... for the first time in roughly 15 years
I just kept asking god.. I said whoever is listening... I know his body is destroyed. I know it. And I know that he can not be healed. I know it's his time... I know you have to take him.. But PLEASE...not like this. Please god... whoever is up there. Let his soul say goodbye to us. Please. Let us have him back. Please give us our goodbyes. Please god. I never ask you anything. Please give me this. Even if just a day...
This was Tuesday night.... I fell asleep in bed next to him. First time sleeping since Saturday really... I heard a voice..
"Maggie is Robbie ok.."
(Robbie is my son)
I thought it was my husband, and I started to reply and then the voice said..
"I don't know why I tried to smoke that last cigarate, I am sorry. Please tell me I didn't hurt Robbie..."
It was my dad!!!!
I jumped up and said Robbie is fine! We are all fine. Do you know where you are? He looked at me confused and said I am at home?
He remembered everything! The cancer, the fire, being on hospice etc. He did not remember telling me he was on a boat, or that he was going to an island. And when I showed him the paper with the numbers, he had no idea what they meant.
The next day we even had a laugh over the whole thing. It was incredible. Like his mind never left us. We had an amazing day.. but that evening I started to notice he was getting weaker. He didn't want to eat, and told the nurse he did not want to wear his oxygen mask.
I told my husband... I knew... I knew it was going to be soon. Early Thursday am the hospice nurse told me she didn't think he had more than a few hours left. I put some music on for him. And he told us he loved us all. He told my husband to watch over his daughters, and protect his grandkids. He told Robbie he had many regrets, and there was still so much he wanted to tell me. We told him we loved him dearly and I know he loved me. And that we would all be ok.
Just before 11am he took his last breath in my arms. And I will never forget when they took his body from my home, soon as he was in the car it poured. Pouring rain and thunder.
Next 3 days were a blur.. I didn't leave my bedroom. The hospice came to get everything quickly. I asked not to watch. When I finally did go back down stairs, the first thing I saw was the paper with the numbers on it....and that is where it hit me...
I felt the warm again. Just like the night I woke up and stopped my dad from falling...
Then I thought about how tired I was the night of the fire. But my husband was ill... so we were both awake...
Then I remembered the prayer. My prayers were answered. NO ONE can tell me otherwise. I was told he wouldn't remember me again, but he remembered everything. All of us. He got to say goodbye... and so did we.
I still have no idea if the numbers actually meant anything, but I took pictures to remember. I also often wonder if the island was were his soul was going and the "crew" who was hostile to him were his fears of death.... I hope some day to understand.
But because of this, I try to look for signs everywhere. I have faith that there is a life after this one and that spirits are all around us. Finally working up the courage to write this whole story up is my Father's day gift to my dad. It has taken me two years to do this, but I feel much better after telling it.