Saying Goodbye to a Dying Parent

Last week was difficult on the home front. We spent the bulk of the week waiting to find out if my Mother’s Breast Cancer had been completely removed and waiting to find out what was actually wrong with my Father-in-law. As an adult with a family of my own, nothing is more scary than waiting to hear about the health of a parent. Adult children never fully understand what it means to be the caretaker of your own parents until it is necessary and even with the best intentions — you are never really prepared for all that it entails. The thought of losing a parent is terrifying and there is nothing like the loss of a parent. I consider myself fortunate that my Father passed quickly and without prolonged suffering or pain.

So this week my husband and me waited on pins and needles for the test results for our parents. Wednesday mornings jubilee about my Mom being cancer free was followed by a flow of great news about my Father-in-law’s spirits and responsiveness to new treatment and a flurry of visits from his life long friends.

By Friday morning, our lives were turned upside down. Our daughter woke up and I discovered that she had Hand Foot and Mouth disease, and that bad news was followed by a flurry of telephone calls that my Father-in-law had not been as lucky as my Mom and he was diagnosed with inoperable Lymphoma. Obviously, we didn’t see that coming, so our triumphs rapidly turned to pain and fear. Hospice care was called and he was transported to PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center’s Hospice House because he was too weak to make the journey home to the San Juan Islands.

So we purchased our tickets and headed up to Bellingham, WA to say goodbye to my Father-in-law. With little sleep and making arrangements for my children to get to and from their games, practices, and school, it didn’t hit me until we transferred to the commuter plane from Seattle to Bellingham that we were going to spend our last moments with my father-in-law and my husband would have neither of his birth parents.

When we arrived to see my father-in-law, his eyes lit up and it was truly a beautiful moment. My husband had the opportunity to say the things he needed to say to his Dad and his Dad had the opportunity to say the things that my hubby needed to hear.

The emotions that we’ve experienced in the past few days have been all over the map. The old hurts no longer mattered. The telephone calls we forgot to make linger in our minds of course, but at the end of the day the only thing that mattered is LOVE! He knew that he was loved and our lives will not be the same without him.

The process of saying goodbye, left many thoughts in my mind about the way that my husband and me show our love for our children, how we shelter our children and how we still have my Mom and Step-Mother-in-law to care for as they age and go forward living without the two men that were the loves of their lives. This process reminded us that we need to revisit our own arrangements for burial and how important it is to make sure that our family knows what we want for our final arrangements. My Father-in-law was very clear about what he wanted and that has been the greatest thing for all of us as we struggled and watched him slip away to go lightly in the night to the heralds of angels.


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