– Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
I felt compelled to stroke his hair like he was my little boy. A young boy who was in honest pain with not one place left to turn. The crying spells were inconsolable. No words would do. Nothing could possibly be fair, kind or compassionately adequate. At this point, there was not much left for my father: body, fixes, time. All that remained were random attempts at comfort, and most importantly, Love.
Once, musicians came to play for him. I think this was the first time I curled up beside him, stroked his hair and spoke most serenely. “The Band” came to play just for him, and he was tormented to be unable to join them.
Yet, The Band played on and we all sang and soothed and stayed present. I wondered what it must feel like to be in a bed in the longterm-care home where he used to play; now, he lay amongst those whom he had previously taken care of and entertained.
The next afternoon, I experienced a dichotomous, startling and lucid flashback …
The woodpecker pecked with such delight and focused intensity. At last, that tree began to thaw. I listened quietly through a veil of poplars. I noticed also and with gigantic joy that I could hear the snow melting. The chickadees were “dee-dee-dee-ing” while the sun warmed my cheeks. An idyllic moment. My heart would always beat with a peaceful exhilaration as I hiked through those trails of solitude and snow.
I think the only other time I experienced the sounds of wholesome and perfect silence, remarkably, were in that hospital. After so many days of vociferous pain, nothing could and ever will transcend the stillness of that day. I would never have imagined that it would have been in the Palliative Care room, while spending time with my Dad.
In that hospital, patients who would scream daily and lash out; that day, there seemed to be a collective, blissful nap. The ladies who regularly chatted like squirrels (and were often referred to as such by one of the nutty nurses in the ward) – all six slept serenely and soundly throughout that afternoon.
All family members had left my Dad’s room. There was a luscious and curious breeze sneaking in through the window in searching of a sliver of That Day’s perfection. The scent of sweet clover made me dizzy with glee. It was so unusual to smell that in the hospital.
I sat motionless on the rocking chair for a long time. It seemed that the world came to a halt: the scurrying nurses, the wandering parade of guests. Everything became still. The world took a very long and soft pause – seemingly motionless on her axis.
It was a moment in my life I cherish — watching my Dad sleep in that ideal stillness. So often I had run into his room in the middle of the night to see if his chest was rising and falling. I just knew there was no need to monitor or check anything. He was okay for this day — For This Day. It was one of the most exquisite moments of my life. I had spent the month watching him die. And yet, This day I watched him peacefully live. This Day was genuine magic.
© Rhonda Belous
August 23rd, 2011