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Two-Minute Warning . . . and He’s Gone

 

It started like many of the false alarms I’ve written about during the past couple of years, but I could tell this one was different from the get-go.

In recent weeks, my 92-year-old father’s health had continued to decline. He was still hanging on to “independent living” in spite of a tube that had been placed in his right lung to alleviate the fluid build-up of congestive heart failure.

During a recent weekend visit to Dad’s, I knew he felt bad when he hardly ate and said he wasn’t up for a car ride. Less than 24 hours after we left, he was on his way to the hospital yet again. An infection had developed around the lung tube.

Georgene and her dad.

When we arrived, antibiotics had cleared up much of the infection, but pneumonia was developing. Dad could no longer pull himself up or walk. Because he was immobile, he was in excruciating pain from the arthritis that had riddled his back and legs, and his feet were swollen to twice their size. Dad was miserable. “No more,” he said. His status mid-week changed to hospice. His choice.

The next five days were a steady stream of visitors – church members, family and friends. For a while, Dad could reminisce and even joke a little and tell his grandchildren he loved them and was proud. By Monday morning, Dad’s vital signs were still stable, but he was in a deep sleep.

Hospice staffers had reminded me that even those who are unconscious can hear, so I had been reading to Dad from his favorite book, the Bible.  “What should I read now,” I asked my husband early that Monday morning. He recommended Revelation 21 and 22 – chapters that describe heaven from the size of the city to the precious stones of the foundation. I read slowly and loudly. I couldn’t tell whether Dad had heard, but just as I finished the cleaning staff arrived.

So we stepped out. I returned, alone, about 10 minutes later. I heard the sound before I’d walked through the door. A piece of equipment on a wall was beeping and flashing. I looked at my father and immediately realized something was different – the color of his skin, the position of his head. I became alarmed until I remembered my father wasn’t hooked up to any equipment.

Dad’s nurse happened to be passing by. She told me not to be concerned about the equipment. Likely a dead battery. She glanced over at Dad and I could tell she saw the change too. She listened to his chest and went for the charge nurse. The charge nurse came and listened. And then Dad took a long slow breath – almost a sigh. The nurse looked relieved. “There he goes,” she said. “He’s breathing.” But as the nurses and I stood watch, no second breath came.

Just another false alarm? Not this time. My father passed away August 29, 2016, one year to the day – and almost to the hour – of my mother-in-law’s exit from this world. And as much as you think you’re prepared for that last breath, trust me, you’re not.

My father was a high school football star and continued to love the game to the end. Professional football has a two-minute clock, reminding players and spectators that the game is about to end.

That beeping equipment was like my game clock, warning me time was running out. A two-minute warning and all the years of living and loving and worrying and caring were over. Just like that. And he’s gone.

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. September 22, 2016 at 11:49 pm | Posted by Jeri Patton

    Georgene , I love the picture of you and your Dad. Thankfully my Mother didn't suffer from this devastating disease. She fell and broke her shoulder at the age of 80. She had Osteoporosis so bad and was in so much pain. She didn't want to go to a nursing home so between my sister in law and I, we took care of her MOST of the time at home. There were times she had to enter the nursing home for therapy but she longed to go home. The last year, we had her at home most of the time and she so appreciated it!! I have always heard that the hearing is the last thing to go with a patient, so we were careful when she went into a coma (on hospice) of what we said. She seemed to improve so my husband talked me into going home to get a little rest. I was the only one in the room. I kissed her forehead and told her that I loved her. I started out of the room, turned around and went back for just a second. I leaned down so that she could hear me and told her not to worry about a thing.....that I would make sure everything was done exactly as she wished. I kissed her again and left. 2 hours later she passed. It was like she was waiting for me to tell her everything would be alright and done like she wanted. I miss her so much. That was almost 8 years ago. One thing that never dies is our love for a parent. God be with you. I pray God gives you comfort during this difficult time.

    Reply

    • September 24, 2016 at 4:50 pm | Posted by Georgene Lahm

      Dear Jeri, What a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing. I truly admire caregivers like you who do 24/7 caregiving. What a difficult job. God bless you. I am comforted by all of you and the belief that my father is at peace and in heaven. Georgene

      Reply

  2. September 20, 2016 at 7:19 pm | Posted by jeff reinhold

    god bless you Georgene, my Mom battled dementia for 23 years. Christmas morning 7:12 am she to took her last breath. 2-11-1936 12-25-2011. I miss her every day. thanks for sharing

    Reply

    • September 22, 2016 at 4:45 pm | Posted by Georgene Lahm

      My condolences to you, Jeff. Losing a parent is so difficult. Hang in there. Georgene

      Reply

  3. September 20, 2016 at 4:28 pm | Posted by yvette holler

    My prayers are with you Georgene. May your Dad rest in peace with the Good Lord. It's is so hard to watch your loved one go through this process. If it comforts you in any way, I firmly believe that they choose to pass when they are ready, whether you are present or not. Your dad truly wanted you there. I, on the other hand, was not when my Dad passed. It saddened all of us that he was alone. He suffered with Alzheimer's, and the only thing that comforts us is knowing that he is at peace now and back to the beautiful human being he once was on earth. May God Bless you and your family.

    Reply

    • September 22, 2016 at 4:47 pm | Posted by Georgene Lahm

      I agree, Yvette. I was not with my mother when she passed 15 years ago and my father was convinced she did not want her children there. Knowing our loved ones are at peace means so much to me as well. Thank you for reaching out. Georgene

      Reply

  4. September 20, 2016 at 3:14 pm | Posted by Mark Farago

    Georgina's story brought me back to the seven year period I cared for my mother who passed away from Alzheimer's. I was so moved by the experience that I wrote and recorded the following song(put to an accompanying video). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhDrFdWx27k My experience taught me to become more selfless and less self with one thought in mind: it was never to much of a burden care for my mother who so well cared for me during her life.

    Reply

    • September 22, 2016 at 4:51 pm | Posted by Georgene Lahm

      Family caregiving is definitely life-changing, Mark. Your mother was lucky to have you. Thanks for sharing your story and your song. Georgene

      Reply

  5. September 20, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Posted by Linda

    I am sorry for the pain in your heart......it's so very much a part of that cycle of life that can all but rip the heart right out of your body. I can empathize with you, as so many who read this, can. We are not alone in our suffering but then we are not alone in our healing, either. I hope your happy memories will carry you well, as you begin a new journey now.

    Reply

    • September 22, 2016 at 4:53 pm | Posted by Georgene Lahm

      It is a comfort to know I am not alone. We all are on one path or another of this same road. I am blessed with very happy memories. Thank you for your kind thoughts! Georgene

      Reply

  6. September 20, 2016 at 11:18 am | Posted by Tamica Tyler

    God bless you and your father may the ending of his suffering give you ease and comfort

    Reply

    • September 22, 2016 at 4:54 pm | Posted by Georgene Lahm

      Thank you, Tamica. I am very much comforted with the belief that Dad is at peace. He was a wonderful father, and I will miss him, but I am so happy his suffering is over. Thanks for your kind words. Georgene

      Reply

  7. September 20, 2016 at 10:22 am | Posted by Elizabeth

    I'm so sorry for your loss, Georgene. I've been through this type of experience, too. So hard. My heart goes out to you.

    Reply

  8. September 15, 2016 at 5:03 pm | Posted by Carol Stolp

    Georgene, thank you for sharing your heart. What a beautiful story.

    Reply

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