by Lily Wren
I write this in anger. It’s an emotion that comes naturally at the moment. A result of witnessing my dad go through the last few hours, days, weeks, months of his life on a number of hospital wards. More often than not in pain. The anger will fade over time. It may fade by the time I have written this. It fades now but I know it will ebb, flow, ebb, flow, come and go.
‘The next 24 hours are crucial’ we must have heard this dozen times. We’re tired, emotional, angry.
‘Your dad now has secretions, come to see him.. now..’ we rush over, tired, emotional, angry and two days later the fight goes on.
Just go dad, be at peace, please. We’ve had over 4 months to right any wrongs, to put the past aside, to forgive and banish regrets. I’ve got to know dad more in 4 months than I have in 45 years. I have forgiven, am at ease with this but sadly I know dad never will be.
‘I’ve been a crap dad.’
‘No, dad. You haven’t. You’ve just been who you are.’
‘OK, not crap but a bastard dad.’
What can you say. These words go around in my head. CRAP. Dad has been living in his head for months without the usual booze to medicate and deaden thoughts. Just an expensive hospital TV, topped up by dutiful children who visit daily, serving him with a cruel reminder of a physical and emotional absence in the early years.
I don’t think he wants us there. It seems clear. He doesn’t want us to see him poorly, weak. A fighter in the good ole days, a fighter he remains. We want to be there though. To support, to let him know it’s OK. We’re OK. We love him.
‘I’ve been a crap dad, I’m sorry.’
‘You were just being you dad’….
‘Sorry, sorry, sorry’ That’s all he says now.
‘Stop saying that.’
Feelings I may have had years ago, feelings of hate, sadness, anger, apathy, regret – they no longer exist. They have been replaced with love and pride. I am proud of my dad for who he is now and I love him for that.
‘Stop saying that…we’re proud of how you’ve handled all this.’
‘A father should look after his family…. I’ve been a crap dad.’
‘I love you dad.’
‘I love you too… don’t make me cry.’
Pain, always in pain. Emotional and physical. But strong, tough, proud. He’s never lost his pride in hospital although we know he’s found it hard. Someone else helping him wash, dress, wipe. And never, ever, did he he lose his dignity. Only those that should know better, those that have been caring for him, only they have losing their dignity either through lack of understanding, compassion, sensitivity or, more likely, through using acquired skills and knowledge which are more attuned with assisting people to live rather than die.
I’m angry that he was running out of pain relief in his syringe driver.
I’m angry that when we told staff dad was in pain he was merely told he couldn’t be as he had a syringe driver.
I’m angry that we had to to once again say dad was in pain.
I’m angry that when staff eventually did checked the syringe driver they found it was almost empty.
I’m angry that my dad’s dignity was laid bare.
He’s been fidgeting as end of life approaches, or in pain. Bed sheets tossed aside, uncovered,wearing hospital gown, half naked, door open, vulnerable for all to see. He’s now unable to say ‘help’, may even be unable to recognise when help is needed.
‘We’ve been busy’ is always the reply. It’s one we hear often, one we can understand and sometimes even
But not today.
Not when dad is dying.
He lies on a hospital bed, near naked, vulnerable. You tell us “we’ve been busy.”
Our dad is dying. Why don’t you just say “We’re sorry.” How about empathy, compassion?
‘We’ve been busy’……
I know it’s not your fault. An acute ward is not the place for end of life care and with lack of money, resources, the system… we have no choice.
I sit at my dad’s bedside, looking at death. His eyes wide open, mouth gasping. I think he reaches out to me but it’s just to grab the bed rail. Bed rails he clung to a month before as he asked to be lifted up. “Lift me up, lift my legs, lift my back, my arse hurts, my back hurts…my arse. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,”
His eyes open, he looks at me, but looks through me. His lips move but nothing comes out, he fidgets under the sheets, his thin, blue arms come out and once again reach out. He fidgets more. ‘Fidgeting is normal’ the nurse says ‘we don’t want pain but fidgeting is normal’.
‘He’s not in pain’ she says. Forward wind a few hours later…
but feel pride and love. It’s OK to go dad.
Just go, please.