The Miracle of my Father's Death
(Edward R. Adelson, circa 1934)
He never knew how to effectively relate to children or how to deal with unpredictable emotions (especially his own) and he was of a generation that believed children were the sole responsibility of their mother and that anyone under 20 should be seen and not heard. In his perception of life, his role was to provide for his family and he did so well.
The little exposure I had to him in my youth was uncomfortable, ackward and intimidating. Now I know that what I had interpreted as him being distant and emotionless towards me specifically was really a display of his general uneasiness with children and their unpredictable emotions. Emotions seemed to be his own personal form of Kryptonite. This discomfort with feelings was especially intense with any expression of affection towards him, or even when affection was expressed near him.
When I was 9 my parents divorced, years before divorce was the plague as it is now. He remarried within a few months and within a couple of years he moved out of state and I saw even less. As time passed we grew further apart both physically and emotionally.
It was not until I was well into my 30s that we began to see one another again. Our interactions were infrequent, at least until he began to have major health problems.
My father’s employment included a great deal of international travel. One day about 18 years ago, I received a phone call from his employer stating that he had experienced a major heart attack in Venezuela and that I needed to go to him immediately as he was not expected to live. They sent an airline ticket and I went to be by his side, assuming that I would come home alone. Frankly at the time I was unsure how to feel about his passing, in all truth I did not feel much of anything at the prospect of his death.
Upon my arrival to his bedside in a Caracas hospital, I was not given much encouragement from those attending him. Despite their dire predictions and much to everyone's surprise he began to recover. This first health event began a 14 year long journey of healing that took him and I through his many health challenges, events that would eventually not only provide him with many more happy and healthy years of life but would also be the vehicle that would heal our relationship ultimately bring us together in a father / son way that neither of us expected and that I had given up on long before. Looking back I can see why he had to survive - for both his spiritual welfare and mine.
Over the next 14 years my father was hospitalized no less than 16 times, I was present for each of these hospitalizations. With each challenge, with each health event, we grew closer.
Over the years there were several close calls where his life was in immediate jeopardy. Miraculously he pulled through many events that others usually failed to survive. From heart bypass, cleaning out multiple clogged arteries, a few stints, a broken femur, bacterial infections, kidney disease, multiple myeloma… he seemed indestructible albeit vulnerable. At Ann Arundel Hospital where he received much of his care, he was deemed the ‘Poster Child of Vascular Surgery’, they even created a poster of him and placed it in the cardiology center!
Through his many illnesses our relationship and we (each in our own ways) were dramatically healed. We became best friends as we sat in waiting rooms, slept in hospital rooms and waited for test results. For most of these fourteen years he was my daily ‘go to’ for advice and conversation and I became his source of companionship and entertainment. We truly experienced an extremely close father son relationship. He became a father that exceeded any hope I had, we became family in a way that we had both given up on years before.
Over time it became apparent to me that at some point I would be called upon to provide full time care for my father. There is no way I would let my father be cared for by strangers.
On July 4th, 2013 I received a phone call from the Ann Arundel Medical Center stating that my father had been admitted yet again. I had been home less than two months since his last hospitalization so as I flew to Maryland with more than an inclining that this was to be the last time I would be called to come to his side.
When I arrived, I could see that his life was coming to a close. The indicators we so often watched return to normal were not moving in the right direction. It was obvious that it would not be long before his passing. After a couple of days of watching his numbers drop in the hospital yet hoping for improvement we both knew that this was not to be another miraculous restoration of his health. Hospice was called in and we began to discuss his end of life care and how best to provide comfort for him as he prepared to die.
He began to decline rapidly. Within a few weeks he was extremely weak and unable to get up on his own. Soon he was also experiencing difficult nightmares that were accompanied by horrible anxiety.
The first week consisted of getting pops settled in and having his medications removed and replaced with ‘comfort and care’ medications. The hospice nurse came for about 15 minutes twice a week so for the vast majority of our time it was just he and I. I did my best to care for him but so much was out of my or his control.
One night was particularly bad. He had been having worsening nightmare and extreme anxiety. I had called hospice earlier in the night and their advice was to give him medication but medication was not helping, actually it was making things worse.
Finally, at about 2am I called hospice again asking for help. Their advice was to give him more medication. I had been giving him infrequent and very small doses of morphine but at times when I gave morphine he would immediately start to hallucinate, hospice’s answer to the hallucinations was to give him Haldol. They put us on a seesaw of medications and none were really helping. This night I had had enough and told them that in his weakened and elderly state if I kept giving him the medications as they advised, I would end up killing him. They said that I was not killing my father, that I was providing ‘comfort and care’. I was furious and I made it clear to them that this was not comfortable for him that it did not feel like care to me, and I hung up the phone and went to my father.
My father was a lifelong atheist and had never followed any religious or spiritual tradition, nor had he ever prayed but prayer was now the only option I knew to give him. I was not a member of any church at the time, I would call my spirituality at the to be more Hindu than anything, but because of my religious experiences in the past I had a strong belief in God and a witness of the power of prayer. I looked at him and said that we both knew he was dying, that I did not know what more I could to help him, I told him that he needed to pray - that either he would be talking to God or talking to himself, but this was his last chance. I told him that I did not know what else to do and that I was going to bed.
The next morning I got him up and into the restroom, which at this point was no small task as it took all my strength to get him up. In our interaction during this transition to the bathroom, it seemed as if he was back. It's difficult to describe the difference in him from the night before but if you have ever been with the dying you know that at times it is if they have one foot in this world and one foot in the next. Pop's now seem to be completely back in this world and fully present. I left the room, but after just a few minutes he called out to me saying, “I’m ready”. I went in and said: “Ok, Pops, I will get you up”. He said; “No, I am ready!” I was shocked and replied, “You are ready, ready?” and he said “yep”. I replied, “You are not afraid anymore?” and he said, “Nope”. I could tell he was different, that something had changed – my pops was back – he was aware and once again the strong man I knew so well. Astonished, I asked him if he had prayed. He said simply said, “yep”. I then cautiously asked him what he prayed and he said, “Well, I said God if you are there - I want to see my mother.” Hearing this, his first prayer, I was very moved. I said again, “And you are not afraid anymore?” He replied, “Nope, I know there is something more.”
To understand the impact of this statement, that he knew there was something more – you must know my father. He never said he knew anything unless he knew it! Something had happened, something real, something power, something spiritual.
I could hardly believe it. Not only did he pray but he received a powerful answer. An answer so powerful that he was changed by it.
From that moment on everything about him and his journey to the end changed. He had no more anxiety, no more nightmares and he got much stronger! Within a couple of days, he could get himself up, walk around, I even got him out of the house a few times! He had been strengthened and comforted in a way I never imagined could be possible. Not only was he stronger but we were able to have three more solid months together. His friends visited and he was able to give gifts and settle all his affairs and we were able to grow even closer.
One night after a very personal and profound conversation I had an experience of deep love for him, it was an experience so powerful I felt as though my heart would burst. I had never before and have never since felt such a strong feeling of love. As I started to leave his room, I turned to him and said ‘Pops, I am having such a deep feeling of love for you right now’. He looked away and said; “I am having the exact same experience’. Never in our lives had we hugged, but this experience made up for a life time of hugs. It was a true gift, one that I cherish to this day.
When the death process started again it was a gentile decline. No anxiety, no nightmares, no more extreme medications, just a slow decline until he eventually passed.
He never told me what happened, but what I feel is that he prayed that morning, in the restroom asking God to see his mother and his prayer was answered. I am almost certain that my grandmother, his mother, came to him, comforted him and showed him there was truly ‘something more’.
I was home from his death little more than a week and I received a call from the Missionaries asking me if I would like to meet with them again. I had met with them many times over the previous 12 years but had not heard from them in several years. This call continued where the healing I had experienced with my father left off, this began the healing with my Heavenly Father. The timing of their call was miraculous but that is another story for another time.
My father lived long enough to be the father I had always wanted and I was willing to keep trying and be available no matter what. I do not know why I have been so blessed but I am grateful - very grateful to both my earthly father and my Heavenly Father for their love, guidance and protection.
For having this experience and I many more I know miracles are real and happen often, I also know 'there is more' and I encourage everyone who struggles with family to please never give up on the ones you love, especially family.