Wednesday, 5 December 2012
Do As Your Father Tells You
I knew my father was dying, maybe with days left to live, and I was due to fly to South Africa to introduce my English family to my African one. 'You go' He was insistent, but I couldn't make up my mind what was the right thing to do.
Dad organised his death quite wonderfully. He had suffered with shingles for two years, and now cancer ravaged his body. We had the morphia in the house and the nurse's number ready to administer it when necessary, but dad had no pain. This is not uncommon apparently. I was undergoing instruction for reception into the Catholic church and this particular evening I was setting off for the party at the end of the summer session. Bottles
chinked in the bag I was carrying. 'I'll have some of that champagne!' my dad whispered.
To this day, I'll never know how dad knew I had sparking wine in that carrier, but so it was. Dad had never had champagne, which this wasn't, but still... and I was a bit
worried because of his diabetes. The doctor laughed. 'Give him whatever he wants, its too late to worry about diabetes!'
For the last two weeks of his life, my dad subsisted on sweet sparkling wine. Knowing where this was going, he signed a living will that stated that he wished to cease taking insulin and that when he went into a diabetic coma, he was not to be resucitated. The doctor spoke to him privately about it and took a copy away.
I couldn't quite go through with it, when the nurse told me he was comatose I asked her to administer a dose of insulin to ask him one last time.. 'This is it dad. Are you sure this is what you want? He nodded, and I let him go.
I was due to fly out the next day. I had agonised about this for weeks. Jeanette said, 'Just for once, why don't you do as your father tells you?'
I sat next to dad working on his computer, I had one last service to perform for him. I wrote his eulogy. I printed it off, and read it to him. I told him what a wonderful man and great father he was, I told him how his principles and direction had shaped my life, and how I would miss him. I read it to him, and exhausted I went to bed. I prayed my final prayer for my father, 'Lord, when your work in him is complete, take him home,'
I then fell asleep.
Less than an hour later, Ray came to wake me up. 'Dad's gone' he said gently. He then went on to say that he'd waited twenty minutes before coming to tell me to make sure - 'because of Aunty Ethel'.
(At mum and dad's fiftieth wedding party, aunty Ethel fell over drunk, and I, also a little merry, couldn't find her pulse, and declared her dead... At which shocking news,
Ethel promptly sat up!)
Dad wasn't going to sit up though, or relive the story of Ethel's untimely demise.
Doing what my father told me, meant flying to South Africa. I celebrated his life with a community whom he had supported, and who sang for me, a song of love and hope
for this amazing man.