Almost eight years ago, my dad made the decision to discontinue treatment for his many medical issues, stop dialysis, and enter hospice to bravely face the final steps on his journey Home. I remember so vividly the night that Ann called, letting me know that my dad was being transferred to hospice, and I remember sitting with him, crying, begging, wanting him to continue the fight. It was selfish. I probably knew that then, but I had a brand new baby, two other great daughters I wanted him to see grow up, and I certainly didn’t want the pain of losing him.
But hospice did more than just offer my father comfort in his final days. Hospice made me look at my father from a whole different perspective. All of his brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, came from throughout the country to spend time with him. Friends from his many years at Philadelphia Electric stopped by. Men he knew from the Knights of Columbus, women from Church, friends he’d had for many years all came to see him, have one last laugh with him, and tell me what a wonderful man he was.
I knew that. But I knew it on a daughter’s terms. Your dad always looks like a knight in shining armor when you’re a little girl, but my dad’s shine never dulled in my eyes. But to sit there, listening to people talk and reminisce about times they had spent with him was eye opening. He was loved. His friendship was cherished. He lived a life many people envy – one where he was surrounded by good friends, family who loved him, and with as much laughter as he could pack in.
Today, as my friend Jennifer goes through this with her mom, I am reminded of the pain I felt every day that my father was dying. But with these eyes that have been wiped free of the many tears that flowed, I can see beyond the process of dying and focus on the joy of his living. It was a wonderful life – not without its hurdles, not without pain; but when it had been lived to the very last breath, it was a life worth celebrating. I hope Jennifer and her family will be able to do the same.