The room was impersonal. The overhead flouresants were bright and unforgiving, humming loudly. There we sat, the three of us, waiting. Dad’s doctor had asked us to meet him here, in a secret waiting room. It was tucked away so it looked and felt more like the bad news room. We all knew what it was. None of us were in a hurry for him to open the door, no one is ever ready for what was next.
Knock, knock, open. Dr. K, his nephrologist (kidney specialist) walked in, shook my brother’s hands and hugged me. Then he sat down and said, I think you all know why we’re here. We all did. We nodded in silence. Then Dr. K said, Your dad has no quality of life anymore. I know you all agree. Mr. Ray has always amazed me. He is one of a kind and I consider him a friend, I want all of you to know that. Mr. Ray has been a fighter. I’ve never seen someone his age fight that hard and I know he was fighting for all of you. Especially you…pointing at me. I knew his fight was for me. He was worried about me. I was his baby girl and although I never said it, I needed him. I wanted him to live forever. I needed him to but his body was wearing out and I knew I had to let him go. There weren’t any other options. Dr. K started by telling us that dad’s temporary port wasn’t working anymore and that his last dialysis only partially worked. We were running out of options and he thought it was time for us to consider stopping treatment, to take dad home, and allow him the decency of dying at home surrounded by his loved ones. He explained that this was our decision and if we wanted him to find another area to try to place a port and give him another treatment he would, but he didn’t suggest it. He didn’t think it would work anyway and prolonging his life would only get us back to this exact spot, weeks from now. After many more questions we asked Dr. K to try to speak our father about this, even though he was weak and sleeping. We wanted him to make the decision. He wasn’t alert enough to understand what was being said so the decision came back on us. My brothers and I decided to take dad home. We would take him home to do what he liked and die on his terms. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made.
The hospital informed us they would have him checked out that afternoon, an ambulance would drive him home and help us transfer him. My brothers left to get everything ready and I stayed with dad. No one had tried to talk to him about anything. I knew it was too much for my brothers so I decided to talk to him alone. He opened his eyes and smiled at me a few time as I held his hand. He was really sleepy as his blood had already began to poison him. I squeezed his hand and said, Daddy, Dr. K talked to us about your dialysis not working anymore. Do you remember him talking to you about to that? He opened his eyes and looked at me before closing them again. Daddy, he said that it wasn’t going to work anymore and that we should take you home….Daddy, can you hear me? He opened and closed his eyes. Please Daddy…please know I’m not giving up on you. I’ve never given up. There just isn’t anything left to do. Your body is tired. You are tired. Daddy, it’s ok to let go. I don’t want to lose you but I know you’re tired. I’m going to be ok. I have my babies to take care of and you know they keep me strong. He squeezed my hand. Daddy we’re taking you home today and I’m going to be here and go with you home. You get to go home today. His hold on my hand lessened and he fell back in a deep sleep. He stayed like that until I was time to go.
He was sleeping and not waking when the EMS workers came up to his floor to get him. I ran to get my car to meet them at the emergency room door where they would load him into an ambulance. As I drove around to the side of the hospital it started to snow. It made me think of my mom. I had completely forgotten it was her birthday. Dad was going home today? On Mama’s birthday?!? I felt it must be a sign she was there with me. Especially with the snow. She always loved the snow. She was watching over us and waiting for him.
I parked and ran to the doorway that they were rolling him out of. He was awake now and scared. I grabbed his hand and said, Daddy I’m here. I’m not going to leave you. I’m here. You’re ok. I love you daddy. I leaned down and kissed his cheek and tried not to let him see the tears falling down my face. They rolled him into the ambulance and I jumped in behind him grabbed his hand again and told him I was going to be following him home in my car. I’d be right behind them and I’d see him as soon as he gets there. He closed his eyes. I ran to my car and got right behind them. As soon as we pulled onto the road the snow started falling harder. I watched the men through the glass tending to my father and I lost it. This was his final ride home. This was the last time he would be outside alive, the last time he’d see the snow, and it would be one of the final days I would have him on this earth with me. I started crying so hard I could barely drive. I cried loud and ugly. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t lose him. He was my daddy. I loved him so much. I wasn’t ready but the car just kept driving and I knew we weren’t in control. Daddy needed me to comfort him and I couldn’t fail him. I pulled behind them in the driveway, wiped away my tears and greeted him with another kiss on his cheek and smile on my face and said, Welcome home Daddy. My brothers walked out of the house to help as daddy was brought home for the very last time.
I miss him everyday. He’s been on my mind a lot lately. I miss his advice, his wisdom…and I miss his hugs. He was my hero.