Father’s Day 2016 was an eerie Sunday…24 hours that I needed to survive without falling apart, and the first Father’s Day since my Dad passed away.
I had questions.
Did I do everything right? Was I strong enough for my Mom and my Brother? My Dad wasn’t perfect…neither am I. Was I a good enough Daughter?
My Dad lost his battle with Alzheimer’s disease at 930 pm on April 1st. It wasn’t a surprise, but even if you think you’re prepared, you’re never truly ready to lose a parent. I felt relief, guilt, anger and then nothing at all—a continuous loop of confusion. Every moment since has been a struggle to regain balance…at work, at home, but most importantly in my heart and mind. Writing anything original has been next to impossible…but I feel the fog lifting, a bit.
Work was and is still is, an enormous hurdle. I’ve spent nearly three decades working as a Respiratory Therapist in the Intensive Care Unit, often a tragic place. I’ve seen so much death… but births, I could count those on one hand. Births that didn’t involve CPR and a bad outcome…I count them on one finger. Sounds like a thankless job. Backbreaking work, crappy hours, emotional exhaustion…can the sacrifice possibly be worth enough? The surprising answer is…yes, but not for the paycheck. What you’re told when you’re hired by the hospital is your official job description that covers the technical and physical aspects of shift to shift life…more than enough to be an excellent caregiver. What you learn over the years, is that the doctors, nurses, therapists, secretaries and techs that who are called to this life, give from their hearts…even when they think they have nothing left to give.
I still have questions. Does anyone notice or appreciate us? Do we give enough to make a difference? What will it all mean, in the end? And then, last night…a simple thank you from an elderly patient put it all into focus.
I think…I hope, I handled everything to the best of my ability. My Dad died with dignity and family at his bedside. I’m reminded of how essential this is, every night I spend with my team—past and present. Thinking all the way back to 1987, it’s been my blessing and privilege to work with them for more than half my life. I’ve watched them face the darkest hours of the night, fight staggering odds to save a life, comfort patients and their families on the worst days of their lives, and hold a stranger’s hand so they don’t die alone…these quiet people in scrubs are secret angels that walk on earth.
As sad as these months have been, I am sure of one thing. My Dad is no longer trapped in a body that failed him or a mind that imprisoned him. So, if he was met at the door to Heaven by just one more angel…that would be enough for me.