My Father's Death

Contributed anonymously to the Lifestories Archives for HPER F460/F560, Grief in a Family Context, a course offered by Indiana University.

I am going to tell you something. This is not a fictional story--it happened years ago, to me. It is the true story of a 24-year old lady who adored her father. I will call myself for the purpose of the story--Beth. It is easier to write about these experiences in the third person, I think. So--since it is my story--I can tell it however I want to. Please forgive the necessity of the third person. It is the only way I can distance myself from the tale and yet tell it to you, because it still hurts after all these years. I am now much older--you should never ask a lady's age but the pain is still there.

When I was 23, we attended a Christmas get-together at my sister and brother-in-law's house. Her in-laws were there along with my family. I am Beth. I have three sisters, two are older, and one is younger. They are: Mary, Tina and Jody. Jody is the baby of the family. She is now attending grad school for a Ph.D. She was not there that Christmas to visit.

We are eating, sitting around the living-room and chatting. My dad and my sister's father-in-law were on the couch, side by side. My dad did not look well." He had sort of on a yellow-colored tinge to his skin compared to Mr. Hud. That is the first time that we noticed the yellow-liver color to my dad. On Dec. 26th of that year, my sister took my dad to the hospital for a check-up. They kept him for tests. If you have ever had someone you love go for tests, you can relate to the waiting, not knowing what they will find. And these tests always seem to take forever, and then another one is done, and another "specialist" must be consulted. It seems to go on and on and on.....

I am a Medical Technologist, MT(ASCP) which means that I work in a hospital and know what they were "doing" to my dad. I am not a chemist, but have been trained in that area, while in college. It was more difficult for me, because of this and, also I think because I adored my dad. I always remember him taking us to the park when we were little, holding my sister, Jody's and my hands. He was the big guy in the middle surrounded by two little daughters. Or tickling us, saying that bugs were going to get us. He was a "fun" father, as a kid. Those are the memories I try to think of, now.

So, my dad is in a local hospital. Not one of the major centers in my city. There are several of those to go to. He went to one near to his home, his wife and children. Not a good choice, after all. What they found out was that my dad needed some blood. Five pints to be exact. He was "anemic," he needed to get his blood count up. They proceeded to transfuse him and that brought up his blood count. I was working, at another local hospital and I became My Family's exact words--"the Medical go-Between, since I could talk and understand the lingo of the Doctors." Therefore, I would NOW be the one to take him for tests, and Doctor's visits. I asked my dad one afternoon, at a visit, "What did they find?" and he told me it was a long-word, started with a "C" and he could not remember it OR pronounce it. My stomach tightened in a knot, and somehow I JUST I knew it was CANCER (OR CA.) AND so, I said, "Is it Carcinoma?"

"Yeah, I think that's what it sounded like."

My dad either was in denial or did not understand what they were telling him. I think that Doctors assume that everyone knows what they mean but some people do not TRULY UNDERSTAND and this is one of the places where, the Medical System fails them. I, however, trained Medical Technologist, that I am KNEW What Carcinoma meant! My dad in layman's terms was DYING, and dying of Cancer.

THEY further determined that the origin of his CA. was the stomach. It had already spread, (or Metastasized) to his liver, hence the jaundiced-yellow-look of his skin.

Now what?

We faced a family crisis here. What could we do? I knew (in my head) that everyone will die sooner or later. But my heart kept asking, WHY NOW? My dad was only 59, never sick, and now he was dying. I knew more than my sisters did, about life and death. I work in a Blood Bank where it is ALWAYS that way.

My dad was in and out of the hospital for the next year. They operated and removed the tumor. At least that is what the Surgeon assured us, in July. He lied. And My dad, who was the most honest man I ever knew, told him to lie to us. I still will not forgive him for that! In July, we thought it was all over. He was OK! He had a colostomy bag to eliminate the waste products of his body. He had to empty it out and clean it, many times a day. We soon found out that he was not OK. He was still sick! AND DYING.

My mother, who was working--continued to work. She had bills to pay. Both of my two, older sisters were also working. They continued to work. I could not work.

I was very much afraid that I would make a mistake at the Blood Bank and Kill someone. I took a sick-leave in November. Mainly to be home and get my dad's meals, and meds together. It could also be considered a Mental-Health Break. I was on-a-daily basis watching my beloved, father, DIE. And I, who was a part of the medical system could do nothing to stop the progression of his cancer. I could, however, play cards with him, spend time, together with him, and like him, pretend that he is well and all is well.....

I was raised to be a "good, Catholic-girl". It is a SIN to lie. Now, I was playing a game of Un-truth with my own father! I called him in November, I did not live at home with my parents. I had an apartment. I had been crying and called to tell my dad that I could not work any longer, that I was taking a leave. He asked, "WHY, Beth?" I replied it was because he was ill. My dad said, "I am not ill. I am fine. Didn't Dr. E say so?"

"Yes," I said. I told him that I loved him and did not want him to die. He assured me that he was not sick at all. Months passed, it was now January. I took my dad for a visit with his primary physician. I liked this fellow. He seemed to Really care about my dad and his well-being. My dad was getting to be a skeleton in his body. He lost weight. You could see the cheek-bones in his face. Dr. C. told me that my dad was dying and I had found a Hospice that would care for him during his last days on earth. I talked with Dr. C. and he agreed to write a letter of recommendation for the Hospice. (You can only go there if you have less than 6 months to live. So you need the Physician to send you there.) I told my dad that they would take care of his pain there. That was true, yet also a lie. He was going there to DIE. Not to get better.

Sometimes, I feel that it was the best decision I ever made for both me and my dad, and the whole family. That was--to get his admission to the Hospice and other times, I remember, that he wanted to leave--because, he said, "everyone is dying around me. What kind of a place is this?"

I find that the people who worked there really did care for my dad's final days. They helped him to enjoy "the end" free of pain and somewhat out of it. There is a drug called the Bromptom's Cocktail--morphine and lots of goodies to kill the pain. I learned of this at the Hospice. My dad was out of it due to the pain.

My dad was one of the first admissions to the place. Years, later, they still laugh about him. He lived a long time there. Three weeks. They remember him, as, a wonderful person. I now can help others with sales, and raffles, to raise money for the Hospice, but I can not go back without tears in my eyes. I cannot volunteer to sit with the dying ones. Yet, it was a wonderful time. I got to get close to my dad, tell him that I loved him and will see him sometime soon.

I am crying now and can tell you no more. Thank you for listening/reading/ and hearing, my story.

November 3, 1995.

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