My father fought against death at the end, even though he was wracked with pain, had difficulty breathing, and spent many of his nights in hospital.
“At what point do we stop all this intervention, Dad, and talk about keeping you comfortable?”
It was the early hours of the morning after another night spent in emergency.
“Now,” his voice cracked as he spoke. Dad was so clearly in distress it was alarming. Involuntary spasms of pain kept him from resting, and the strain was telling on his ashen face.
I took his hand in mine. “Dad, all I want for you is peace,” I hesitated. “To be honest with you, Dad, I have never known you to have peace in your life.”
He squeezed my hand. “Not a lot.”
“Do you believe that there is something for you on the other side, Dad?”
“I don’t know, Honey. I don’t have the faith that you do. I don’t know what to believe.”
“Some say that our feeling about God is related to our relationship with our own father.”
“When you were a boy, huddled in the coat closet, hiding from your father, what were your thoughts? Did you ever think about God in those moments?”
“All the time.” My father closed his eyes and laid back. “I remember asking God over and over, what I did wrong to deserve the beatings. I thought God was punishing me.”
“Exactly, Dad. Maybe your fear of death is because the little boy in you thinks God will reject you, or inflict more pain.”
He opened his eyes and looked at me. “You could be right. I know I’m afraid.”
“God didn’t punish you, Dad. Your father did. I have to believe there is something better awaiting you.”
He closed his eyes again, processing what I suggested. “You were a child, Dad. It wasn’t your fault. You need to forgive yourself.” A tear trickled down his cheek.
We didn’t talk about it further, but we did speak to the doctor on duty about changing Dad’s care. Plans were made to transfer my father to palliative care. The day he was to be moved, my father announced that he didn’t want any visitors. He said he needed time to settle in. They moved him mid-morning. He died within hours. I rushed to his side, but it was too late.
“Good for you, Dad,” I cried. “You finally made it.”