CONTENT WARNING: This post talks candidly about the passing of my dad, and what I experienced on his last day.
Seven months ago today, I lost my dad. He’d had emergency surgery the week before, and while the doctors were confident in the surgery, it turned out he didn’t have enough in the tank to fight and recover.
He spent nine days in intensive care, unconscious and on a ventilator. The evening of day eight while I was visiting him the doctors gave me the news that the chances of a recover were almost non existent, and that it was time to consider turning off the machines keeping him alive.
I had to go home and break the news to my mum and sisters, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
Mum and dad had already had conversations about end of life care, with both having serious health issues, and hollowing the recent death of dad’s brother in law, so his wishes had been made clear that he did not want to be kept alive artificially if there was no hope for anything resembling a normal life.
The next morning, the 7th of May, I took mum into the hospital for the first time since he’d been there, and she saw for herself how he was, and understood the doctors recommendation.
We told them what dad’s wishes were, and they gave us some time before we told them it was time to turn the machines off, that was about 10:30am. Mum and I sat with him for a number of hours, a quiet vigil, while dad struggled to breathe.
They had him on an IV that contained morphine for pain, and something else to keep him asleep, so in his last hours he was pain free, probably for the first time in over forty years.
At about 2pm I had to take mum home, forty five minutes away, and did a quick turn around and headed back in, alone.
I arrived back at about 3:30pm, and intended to sit with him until the end because I’d always promised myself after all the health battles we’d been through together that I’d be there for him when it was his time.
They still had him hooked up to machines to monitor heart rate, blood pressure and the like, but there were no alarms on.
I remember it was around 7pm when I noticed that his heart rate was starting to fluctuate, and the nurse told me that the body will fight it’s best until the end, and dad was always someone to defy the odds when he could, but not this day.
Then just after 8pm I glanced at the screen, and the heart rate was zero, and in that moment I froze, not able to comprehend that he had finally passed, that my dad had died. That moment in time haunted me for many weeks to come, and even now it is still a visceral experience when I think back on it. It is a moment that will live with me, and haunt me forever.
At the time the nurse had left to get more morphine, so it was just him and I at the end, and it was a number of minutes before I saw them heading back, and I stood up, walked to the door and uttered just two words as they walked in.