Learning To Love You More




Assignment #31
Spend time with a dying person.

Abigail Johnson Oakes
Indiana, USA
Email Abigail



I can't believe it's only been 6 years that my Dad has been gone. When I learned that he was diagnosed with a deadly cancer, I began to make plans to move from the Midwest, to Florida, to be with him. My Dad had just about always been my hero, and definately in the past few years. He was a very active man, I think about 58 years young.
It was an intimate experience, that I wasn't entirely sure that he would want to share with me; he looked embarrassed when he suddenly had to throw up into the trash can by his bed. It was frightening seeing him so vulnerable, and frail, but I would not leave unless he asked me to. And he never did.
The days before he left us, he began to have visions. One was of his mother, who had died a few years earlier. He said she was waiting for him, and I know he was comforted by this, because she'd meant the world to him. Then, we began to notice him gazing out the bedroom window; he'd have a faint smile on his face, and watched "something" intently. When someone asked him what he was looking at, Dad would motion toward the window, and said, "those little children, don't you see them? They're waiting for me to come play with them."
Then, at other times, People who were there would say that they thought they caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of their eye. The general consensus was that they were seeing angels. I know that this is true, not because of my Dad being such a great person, or living such a noble life, but because he had been committed to deepening a realtionship with God, for the past few years of his life. I believe that God might have sent them to watch over things, and to ease Dad into the next life....
There was a sweet Spirit over the house during the last hours of Dad's life. I had been called form work, and I'd known it was getting closer for several days. I took my position by his head, sitting on the side of the bed. I held his boney, emaciated hand, and I looked at the hands that I had loved for so long. He always had kept his hands clean, even when he'd been working on a motor, or building his house; And I remember the shape of his fingernails. Isn't that odd? Somedays mine look just like his.
When the nurse (hospicce) came to give him some kind of medicine, I began to get out of her way, and let go of his hand. Dad reacted instantly, and grabbed for my hand back. I was happy to know that he was still there, and that he knew that I was there. He hadn't been able to really indicate that for many hours.
I remember at the funeral, when a friend of his had spoken, of a story of Dad's last words to him; He had motioned Pete close to his mouth, because he was growing weaker,all the time. pete must have asked him if he was ready to go, and he said, "I'm starting to get excited, and I feel like dancing!"
Our Pastor had come earlier that day, and sung hymns to Dad, about heaven, and recited some of the Bible to him. Dad loved it, and we could tell by the steadying of his breathing then.
When Dad drew his last breath, I was there beside him. He had fought for so long, people said that he'd purposely waited until 3 weeks after my birthday, bacause he didn't want it to be such a sad reminder... His breath grew shallower, and shallower, and I heard what they call the "death rattle". All of a sudden, he took a breath, and his eyes flew open, so wide, and I know he looked into the face of Jesus. His eyes were cloudy, and it was obvious that he wasn't really in there, even before the breathing stopped. Then, his spirit was gone.
When I knew that he had died, I didn't want to believe that it had really happened. I'd held out hope, I suppose until the end, that somehow he would not die. I will always be Daddy's girl, I know.
I put my head on his thin, bony chest, to listen for any signs of life. The silence was just so LOUD. There was no breathing, no steady, strong heartbeat, nothing. I have never heard anyone make the sounds that came out of me that day. I cried harder than I have ever cried before. I felt like my soul was hollowed out, and the best parts of me were gone. Dad was my best friend, and I am grateful for the legacy he left for my brother and I, and our children. I would never have missed that intimate time for anything.
Thanks, Roger, for teaching me about being strong, about being brave, and about love, and laughter. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of possibly the most awesome day of your life. I'll see you soon, Dad. But first I have to help raise your grandsons.