At one point, Trina had to consult our Notebook of All Things Concerning Dad (NOATCD), in order to answer a question Dad had about the last time he had taken any pain medication.
Audrey leaned over and whispered inquiringly into my ear, “Mom, is that Papa’s potty chart?”
I had to laugh as I answered and told her, “Essentially, yes.”
We use the NOATCD to log everything from bathroom breaks, to his food/drink intake, medications, complaints, and anything we feel we need to call our hospice nurse about. It’s working so much better than our old system of: Hoping That Between the Four of Us, We Have Enough Brain Power to Equal One Functioning Adult. The NOATCD is, essentially, our Only Functioning Brain. (OFB)
I will never remember these acronyms. So, we will probably just refer to it as Papa’s Potty Chart from now on. Why not? It’s one more thing for us to get a good laugh out of!
Speaking of laughing, I had to lean over after Audrey left the room, and tell Dad what she said. He laughed, and when I told him it would have to appear on my blog, he said, “Of course!”
Later on, Durin decided he wanted to sit in Papa’s room for awhile while he was sleeping, and come get us if Papa woke up. We let him do it, and at least one of us was just outside the open door for anything he could have needed – he wasn’t shouldered with any real responsibility for Dad. Just FYI. We wanted to honor his desire to be with Papa, and to “help” with him.
Anyway, Durin was concerned about the mild tremors that Dad is having now, and began to ask a lot of really detailed, clinical-type questions about what Papa is feeling right now. I reassured him that these tremors (we think they’re related to the petit mal seizures) don’t seem to bother him or cause him any pain.
I was able to reassure him that Papa is actually experiencing pain levels hovering around a one or two on the pain scale, and is still only using pain meds on an as-needed basis. Durin kept asking questions that got deeper and deeper into detail, and it felt very natural and right to just share with him the physical details of what his Papa is dealing with. It seemed to help Durin a lot, actually.
I was able to explain to him, in more concrete terms, what it means for a person to die the way Papa is dying, and he seemed comforted by the detail. I explained to him that it was like a house being readied for vacation – that everything needs to be turned off, one room at a time, before we can leave it safely. That different parts of Papa’s body, like the different rooms, will slowly be shut off and stop working, little by little. Then, when his lungs, heart, and brain all finally stop working, Papa’s body will be dead, and his spirit will be present with Jesus, healed and whole. He seemed to really get that.
As I was tucking the kids in later on, Durin asked, “So, are we going to have a celebration at Papa’s funeral? Because we know he’s going to Heaven?”
“Yes,” I told him. “It will be a celebration of his life, and all that God has done in and through him.”
“So, it will actually be a happy time?” He wanted to know.
“Well, it will be happy and sad at the same time,” I replied.
“So, we will be smiling, but have tears in our eyes?” Audrey chimed in with her own question, tears sparkling in the corners of her deep brown eyes already.
My heart melted.
“Yes, honey. Something like that, I think.”
Then, there was Dain’s prayer. He’s been praying the same prayer for months: “Bless that Papa doesn’t die.” I keep gently reminding him that Papa’s body is going to die, and that Papa’s spirit will live forever with the Lord instead.
“I’m going to be so sad when Papa dies,” he said tonight.
“Me too, son. And that’s okay. We won’t be sad forever. We will be happy again sometime, I promise,” I tried to reassure his five-year-old heart. “What Papa wants us to pray for is that he doesn’t hurt. Can you do that?”
Dain’s prayer tonight:
“Dear Jesus, bless that Papa doesn’t hurt. Bless that Papa doesn’t die. Bless that we’ll have good weather tonight, and good dreams, andhelpustobenicetoeachother, Jesusnameamen.”
What a gift they are. They need me so much. And I feel like I have more than ever to give to them, and to share with them.
They are the glue that keeps my heart from breaking these days. What a mighty gift the Lord has given me in giving me these four precious beings.
They are nothing short of miraculous and lovely. They are worth my everything. They are worth my vulnerability and openness. They are worth my time.
Through this process, we have been encouraged by hospice to allow the children to participate in whatever way they each see fit, or to not participate if they don’t want to. We have never pushed our kids either direction, and they are growing braver, asking questions, and loving on their Papa in ways none of us grown-ups can do. It’s amazing. So many think it would be “too hard,” or that the kids are just “too young” to be exposed to this. These children are proving that to be utterly false in their case.
They are each free to grieve this in their own way, at their own pace, and they understand that there is no topic off-limits. The older ones are going to carry the memory of this time in a positive way for the rest of their lives.
I’m starting to see that they don’t seem to fear death, though they are often sad. If their going through this with the rest of us at their own initiative is what it takes to keep them from fearing death (over which we have victory in Jesus anyway), then so be it. It’s beautiful to watch them minister and serve and comfort and laugh. It’s nothing short of beautiful. I don’t regret a moment.
Grace & Peace,