As a caregiver to a loved one battling a terminal disease, it is very bittersweet. You want to help, you NEED to help, but it is the hardest thing you will ever do. You feel like you are their lifeline, and in reality, you probably are. It is exhausting, thankless and horrible. You see the worst of everything. You feel like you are experiencing the worst of life. You peek into the soul of death. It is horrifying, and it leaves an impact on you that breaks your soul.
In spite of all of that, there are moments that you hold to your heart because you KNOW it will be the last time you will probably spend with your loved one. So, although I was experiencing these things internally, I could not show how it was breaking my soul daily. I had the added issue of NOT being able to talk to family members because it was my dad request.
There was so much to do and no time to do it. I was on the clock every day because I could see my dad’s life slipping from me every day as he grew weaker and weaker. I was juggling life, a new job, my son struggling in college due to stress related to dads illness, and I had to handle it all on my own.
Everyday crushed my soul to see my dad suffering and fading quickly. The hardest part of being the caregiver was not the exhaustion, not the work involved with caring for so one so terminally ill, but watching him die before my eyes more and more every day. Watching someone die changes you forever, it breaks something in you and I don’t know that it can ever be repaired.
The last day dad was at my house. I remember the night before I was so exhausted, my son was exhausted and we were frankly tapped out for what we felt we could do for dad. We were overwhelmed with his care, my son and I had thrown our backs out, we were in legit physical pain and we were at a loss.
I woke up, and dad was yelling that he had fallen out of bed. I walked in his room, and he was partially hanging out of the hospital bed. He had a bruise on his back, there was blood, and I was just at a loss about what I should do. I was just so tired. I couldn’t lift him back into the bed because I’d thrown my back out. My son wasn’t here to help. I managed to haul is legs up and then I sat on the floor and cried.
Dad was adamant about not going to a nursing home throughout his illness. Right at that moment, he realized that his care was beyond myself and my son. We were overwhelmed, out of our element, and he needed more than we were able to give. I was exhausted to the point that I didn’t know if I could make it through his care one more day. I believe dad fully recognized this. He said, “I’ll be alright, go in the other room. Go get ready for work.” That’s what I did.
A few hours later dads nurse came. They let me know that his condition was accelerating downward quickly. I was concerned about the bruise on his back and quite frankly worried about my ability to continue to care for him. We had to turn dad every two hours, and my body would no longer allow me to move him.
I decided to take him to the hospital to get the bruise checked and to make sure he was ok. We had to get a private ambulance because the local 911 would take him to the local hospital, and he needed to see his regular physicians at the VA hospital.
Dad was admitted to the VA hospital on May 10th, and he passed away on May 15. Although I was aware that he didn’t have long to live, there’s nothing to prepare you for getting this kind of early morning call. It was the saddest day of my life.
I am still struggling through living life without him because he was a huge part of my life. However, I know he would want me to live life to the fullest. He would want me to live in a way, upon my death, I wouldn’t feel as if I ran out of time as he did. So, I dedicate the next fifty years of life to embracing all that it has to offer in the name of Earl L. Smith.
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