The Hospice nurse said Daddy had hours, not days to live. I called Darla and she immediately came to the nursing home. As soon as she arrived, I left to go to Big Spring, repacked my suitcase and immediately returned to Abilene. Rick went on to Lubbock to be with his mother.
About 4:00 p.m., I arrived in Abilene, and Daddy was already in the Hospice Unit at the hospital. Darla brought Mother to his bedside. I can still tell you which room on this floor was Daddy’s. It was a large room, as they all were. Daddy’s bed was on one side and on the other side was a seating area for family. Because she was extremely cold natured, Mother was wrapped in white blankets sitting in a lounging chair beside Daddy’s bed.
Daddy’s breathing was very rapid and shallow. His eyes were rolled up to the top of his head and fixed. He showed no awareness of where he was or who was around him. I went to his bed and began to talk to him, telling him that we were all there, that we loved him, that we were all going to be fine, and that it was ok for him to go on to heaven. It was not as hard to say those things to him as I thought it would be. By that time, we were ready for his suffering to cease. We were ready…………
In the family seating area was my other sister and our friend of the family. There was a humorous moment, though I was the only one that recognized it at the time. I am the oldest, and I always felt that I was responsible when things were not going as I thought they should. It seems that shortly after I arrived, my two sisters and our friend began laughing and joking. Mother and I felt they were being too loud. Not that I think Daddy minded. In fact, I think if he knew (and he may have) what they were doing, he would have enjoyed it tremendously. I don’t think they were being disrespectful, just unthoughtful. I was concerned about the other families on the floor. I knew that they were each going through a crisis and well.
I tactfully tried to quiet them down. They just kept right on. Mother then said something to them. They didn’t hear her either. Then she said in her very familiar repremanding tone, “Girls!” Boy, did that bring back memories. It had been years, no decades, since I had heard that tone of voice from her. I just had to smile (on the outside) and laugh (on the inside). Well, that didn’t work either.
Oh, well. Everyone deals with crisis moments in different ways. Laughter has always helped us cope. As I discovered later, those rooms do not pick up sound from other rooms easily. Especially if the door is closed.
The nurse came in and wanted to give Daddy some pain medication. She said that the medication would help him not hurt, but that it would also bring the end more quickly. When Mother heard that, she refused to allow the nurse to administer the medication. Hmmmmmm. We understood that she had not let go of Daddy yet.
Some of us went to supper. Darla stayed with Mother and Daddy. When we came back, Darla was kneeling on the floor beside Mother whispering to her. Mother had relaxed and was dozing off to sleep. When she woke up, she was ready for Daddy to have the pain medication.
Darla is truly amazing. She had whispered in Mother’s ear, “Mama, Jesus is calling Daddy’s name. He can hear it and you can hear it. You know that Jesus is ready to take Daddy to heaven. We have to let him go. Right now, Mother, I don’t want you to think about being Daddy’s wife. I want you to think about being God’s little girl. I want you to think about climbing up in God’s lap and letting him hold you and comfort you.” As Mother relaxed in God embrace, she just fell asleep.
As the evening hours quickly passed, everyone but me left. Darla was coming back. There are lots of details here that are forever fixed in my memory, but not essential to the retelling of the story.
It was just after midnight when we realized that Daddy was gone. Mother had been asleep for a couple of hours and I had just fallen asleep. Darla was in an empty area across the hall writing Daddy’s obituary. She felt the need to check on Daddy, and sure enough, he was gone.