Sunday night, June 7th, Josh got on the computer and saw a message from my brother Craig saying that I needed to call my sister. When she picked up her cell phone, she and my Mom had just gotten done talking to two doctors in the ER who had shown them the CAT scan and MRI they had taken of my Dad's brain. It showed evidence of a hemorrhagic stroke on the left lower side of his brain. There was a dark spot all over that side of his brain, showing bleeding. The doctors said that it was irreversible, that it was fatal, and that all the children should come because they weren't sure he would last the night.
If you recall, in January, my Dad had a TIA in Panama. He had recovered well, although he remained frail, and my Mom never once felt like he was back to his old self. So when I heard this news, it didn't come as a total shock. Bruce was out at the Farm, so I took the children into the living room and I told them about Grandpa. All took it well except for Libby. She started sobbing. I could see this made everyone else feel a little more tender toward her, and the situation. Jesse said, "I'm sad, but I know that Grandpa will be in the Celestial Kingdom, and it won't be very long before we see him." We had a family council and decided that the four older kids would stay because of activities - Joseph in Driver's Ed, Jesse and Mary going to Girl's Camp, and Josh needing to stay and drive everyone around - and the rest of us would drive to where my parents live across the state.
As we were preparing to leave, Libby paused in the laundry room and said to me, "I know they said it won't be very long before we see Grandpa... but to me, it seems long." I dropped to my knees and hugged her and said, "I know Libby. To you, it is a long time." And we cried together. I find it remarkable that she could articulate those feelings so well.
Josh drove out with me to the Farm to make sure that Dad could go; otherwise he would have come with me instead. I appreciated Josh during this hour. He listened to me and talked with me. These are times when one appreciates having an older son.
Bruce, Peter, Libby and I drove through the night to the hospital. I drove most of the time, with Bruce taking an hour during the night. I listened to the Mad Boys CD the whole way, over and over! Especially Come Thou Fount - Josh singing that song kept me through the night. Oh, and cell phone conversations with my brother Chris who was traveling through Arizona to get to an airport. We kept each other awake.
We arrived at the hospital at four in the morning. It was a quiet ICU room with Angie and Mom in there. I took hold of my Dad's hand and talked to him. He started kind of a gag reflex and squeezed his eyes as if he was in pain. That was a scary moment for me. I didn't want to see him in pain. The nurse later explained to me that the touch on his hand brought him out of the sedation enough to sense that the ventilator was in his throat, and that was uncomfortable. I spent some sweet moments talking to Mom while Angie finally got some sleep.My brother Clark arrived around 8:00 am from Utah. I didn't recognize him. He has lost so much weight since I saw him last, that when he came walking down the hall, I wondered who was talking to my sister. Ha ha! At this point we started to have a steady stream of visitors from Mom & Dad's ward, and their friends where they live. What a wonderful support system they have there! Bruce said, "It's the good Idaho Saints!"
At 11:00 am, my brother-in-law Rodney picked up my siblings - Julianne, Chris and Craig from the airport. When they walked in and we told my Dad they were here, I saw more reaction from him than I had seen up to that point. He raised his head slightly off the bed and looked at them out of his left eye. I have no doubt he knew who they were. It was after this, when there was a quiet moment, that I stood by Dad's bedside, held his hand, and cried. It was seeing a glimpse of his old, warm self seep through for a moment that caused the memories to flood back of how wonderful a father he was, and what a remarkable man. Throughout this whole experience, I felt the Spirit very near, and was comforted tremendously. I felt sadness, but it was nestled in a cocoon of love and joy. I am deeply grateful for the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
I didn't leave the room until late in the evening. We spent some memorable time together. At one point Clark, Julie, Craig and I were in the room with Dad just talking, reminiscing and laughing softly.
My brothers Cedric and Curtis came in the afternoon, and we spent some time in reading poems like The Highwayman, Abu Ben-Adam, A Friend by the Side of the Road, etc., to Dad. We also sang Hymn after Hymn, and I have to say, we finally got Home Beloved right! My sister Jeana arrived late in the evening, as did two nieces and their husbands. We had a big sleepover at my Mom's house with sponges, mattresses and sleeping bags spread all over the house.
The next morning, Conal arrived, the last of the siblings to get there. He walked down the hall, and when we saw him, there were oohs and ahhs all around because he was carrying Macy, his 11 mo. old daughter! He didn't tell us he was bringing her, so when he walked into the room and held her up like Rafiki showing Simba, saying "It's like the Circle of Life", you can imagine how the energy in the room just shot up and we all felt a burst of sunshine come in. (And we were glad to see you too, Conal! )Jeana holding Macy
After Conal got there, we all gathered in the ICU room. Dad, of course, Mom, Jeana, Clark, Curtis, Josh & Clarissa, Julie, Stetson & Whitney, Bruce & I, Peter, Libby, Cedric, Rodney & Angie, Ethan, Alyssa, Conal, Macy, Chris, and Craig.
Julie holding a sleeping MacyIt was fun for Macy and Carson to get a look at each other! Caleb and Carson, Angie and Rodney's two younger sons, were there briefly. Later they went over to Rodney's parents' home.
One thing we did was have Clark read Dad's favorite poem, The Touch of the Master's Hand.How he got through it, I'll never know. To say there was not a dry eye in the room is an understatement; more like there was no one who was not weeping. OK, maybe Ethan and Peter - ha ha.
I wondered later why that particular moment struck us all so hard - at no other time was that much emotion displayed. I believe it was because that poem is about the Savior - His power to redeem and his love for even the lowliest of us, and Mom and Dad raised us to love the Savior. And we all knew they loved him. And plus, my Dad loved that poem, and never read it with a dry eye. It was a sweet and tender moment that I want to remember the rest of my life.
I asked Cedric to share his thoughts, and he spoke of how Dad had fulfilled his role of sharing the gospel with the Lamanites, and carried them on his shoulders. This he certainly did!After we had all had a bit of time to spend with Dad, we all knelt down and Mom asked Craig to give a prayer. He gave a beautiful prayer. The nurses them proceeded to come in and remove the ventilator and other medications that were keeping him stable. It was so nice to see his face without the ventilator on it. He looked so much more himself! We continued to talk to Dad and hold his hand.His oxygen saturation started to go down, so for the sake of comfort, they put some oxygen under his nose. Peter was right there watching, and turned to me and said, "Mom, it's not in far enough." Curtis overheard him, and was thinking just the same thing. Curtis turned and smiled at me and enjoyed that moment with Peter - two engineering minds thinking alike! The nurse soon fixed it. During this time, Curtis also entertained Libby. He was holding her on his lap, and they were giggling about something. He really made a friend in Libby.
We sang God Be With You Till We Meet Again, including a verse in Spanish.Not knowing what would happen, we expected that Dad might slip away at this point. But this was not meant to be! His oxygen saturation and blood pressure stabilized, and he rested peacefully. After an hour or so, we started to think about food and what would happen the rest of the day.
To be continued...