July 2, 2011 – Remembering Bob on the Two-Year Anniversary of his passing….
I received the phone call at about 5:30 am. It was time to say good-bye. I knew that the end was near, but we are never really ready to say good-bye to a loved one. I had awakened at about 2:30 am and knew that this would be the day. He and I were that connected. (It wasn’t the first time this had happened in the five and a half years that I took care of him.) I shot up from my sleep and literally sat straight up in bed. My husband asked what I was doing and I told him it was time for me to go to Bob’s house. He assured me I would get a call if, indeed, it was time. After an hour or so I fell back asleep until the phone rang at 5:30 am. I do not remember getting dressed and I think my car flew across Los Angeles towards his house. I entered the house and something felt different. Life was leaving. It wasn’t an eerie feeling. It wasn’t scary; rather, it was somehow peaceful in the moment.
I made my way upstairs – the stairs I had helped him climb so many times and he was sitting in his chair (where he always was on my daily visits). This time, however, he was desperately trying to breathe – he did not want to let go. He was a fighter until the very end. He was courageous, so courageous and mentally strong. For a minute I felt paralyzed. What could I do for him? How could I help? I had to leave the room for a minute and gather my thoughts. I was frightened, and I didn’t know what to do, how to help, or what to say. I was lost. He had come to depend on me for everything and now, more than ever, he needed my help.
I pulled myself together and went back into the room and held him in my arms. He felt so fragile and yet I could feel the fight coming through his body into my arms. I told him that this was his day; this was his time; that he didn’t have to fight anymore. This was the day he would be with his sweetheart of 64 years. This was the day he would once again be with his son, who he lost over 30 years ago, and his daughter who had preceded him in death a mere three years before. This was the day he would see all of his friends who had passed on before him. I talked as quickly as I could about his life – his very rich and full life – it was literally a stream of consciousness and whatever popped into my brain, somehow, magically made it into language that he might understand. He let me hold him and calmed down a bit, but he was still fighting and fighting with all his might.
Sensing that I was on the verge of breaking down, I once again left the room and went outside. It was dawn and the sun was just beginning to rise. Before daybreak there is a sense of peacefulness in the air. The sky is a million different colors and you can feel the energy of the new day dawning. I prayed. I wasn’t even gentle about it. I just pleaded for God to hear me amidst all the other voices and give me the words and guidance I needed to help him die. What did I need to say? What did I need to do? Everyone in the house was racing around trying to get more oxygen, positioning him for comfort and caring for him as best they could. My daughter was there and she was having a very difficult time with the process. She couldn’t be in the room for more than a moment or two. She loved her grandpa too much. His son was there (my ex-husband) and was completely disengaged through the whole process.
It was I. I had to help him. I had to get him past this time of pain and angst. It was the last time I would ever be able to truly help him and this was huge. I was unprepared. I needed God to guide me. As I was wandering aimlessly around the driveway, it was clear…what I had to say to him was clear. He wasn’t going until he heard the words he was waiting for and it was God who sent the message – LOUD and CLEAR. I ran upstairs and re-entered the room and once again I held him, and then I sat at his feet so he could see me clearly. I told him that he could let go, and then I told him that my daughter and I would be okay; that he had given us everything we ever needed to be okay; that we would carry his love and strength with us every day of our lives; that it was okay and that we would carry on and make him proud. He squeezed my hand tightly, leaned forward in his chair, and pressed his forehead against mine as hard as he could and stayed there for almost a minute. Then he asked to go to bed.
My husband arrived and sat with him, held his hand and kissed his forehead. A few minutes later, he was gone. He had lived 89 years, almost 90. It was peaceful. It was kind. He was loved. We did what we could, but in the end, he was in complete control. He died on his terms.
Two weeks later we had his burial and memorial service. He was not a religious man so we had no church service, but God was ever-present. I could feel Him everywhere. On the Sunday of his Memorial we celebrated his life. It was a beautiful July day in Los Angeles – crystal clear and not a cloud in the sky. It was amazing to see the outpouring of friends and family who came to honor and celebrate this 89-year-old man’s life. He had touched a lot of people and they were all there.
At the end of the evening I was sitting in his backyard with my daughter, my niece and one of their friends. It was lovely just to sit and be. Everyone had left except us. As it grew dark, around 8:30 pm, we knew it was time to leave. We packed up our belongings and the girls carried their things to their cars in front of the house. It would be one of my final times visiting the house and I stood in the yard just taking it all in one last time. Tears welled up in my eyes and I left and walked to the front of the house. I stood in the driveway next to a ballerina bronze statue that he loved just outside the front door, as the girls came walking back in my direction.
I was still crying and suddenly ever so gently, raindrops began falling and then, like magic, it poured down rain for about five minutes. It didn’t rain next door on either side of the house or even across the street. It rained there, right where we were standing. There was one cloud and only one cloud in the sky. It stopped as quickly as it started and the lone cloud completely dissipated. We all stood there together, embracing, looking skyward drenched from the downpour. Is it possible that he, too, was saying good-bye? Was God washing the pain and sadness away? I will never know the answer, but this I do know…it was a gift from Heaven and my life has been changed forever because of those five minutes. Yes, in death there are gifts too precious to ignore.
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