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My walk with Dad

Posted on July 05 2012

I am not sure if this could be called a brave story, but it is a sad and true story. My father died recently of Alzheimer’s, Dementia, whatever you want to call this horrible disease. Over a period of about eight years, I watched this happy, energetic, full of life man become a shrunken, angry creature. A person who had lost not only his mind, but also his body and soul. The disease ate away every part of his being. It started out as being a little forgetful, repeating himself, to walking everywhere. Then becoming more forgetful, not remember my sister and brothers names, to extreme repetitive actions. He walked constantly inside, outside, it didn’t matter, he walked. He walked everyday whether it was hot or cold outside. He walked to town, only to get there and not know why. The police had to bring him home several times. When I got to his house and asked him why he had gone to town, he told me he was walking home, I told him he was home.Then a terrible sad expression spread across his face. He didn’t recognize that he was home. However, he still continued to walk, Well finally, I got that four-thirty in the morning call. It was from his wife, dad was missing. I then called my sister. We all got into our cars and drove up and down the streets looking for him, we informed the police, for they had become familiar with him and his walks. His wife finally found him about five miles from home headed east. His only explanation was he was going home. Shortly after that incident his wife had to put him in a nursing home. Every time we went to visit him he wanted us to take him home, it was heartbreaking to not only him but to us also. Then he became angry, mad at everyone, wanting to fight, this was not the dad who had raised me. He went into his room one day and there was another man there. He told him to get out, when the man didn’t, my dad punched him. However, he didn’t punch another man he punched a mirror, he no longer recognized himself. Eventually, dad had to be moved to a more secure facility. A horrible, sad, smelling of urine place. I am ashamed that we had to leave him there.Over the years, dad forgot how to eat with silverware, how to set down into a chair, how to take a step up or down, but the hardest for me was he forgot me. Me and everyone he loved and who loved him. On November 27th, 2011 at about 9:15 in the morning, I got the call, the call that dad didn’t have long. I called my sister, daughter, son and my dad”s brother. My husband and I picked up my daughter and my uncle to drive the sixty miles to get to him. I was afraid he would die before I could tell him I loved him one more time. When we finally arrived at the God-forsaken place that had become his home for the last four years, he was suffering so much, it hurt not only my heart, but all the way into my soul. He was breathing so hard, sweating, and shaking, I became afraid I wouldn’t be able to do this. I had never been with anyone who was dying before. I prayed to God to help me through it all. I was terribly upset to see my dad in such a state of agony, I asked the nurses to help him and with me be ignorant about death and dying I believed what the nurses told me. That this was a process of dying. I couldn’t accept this. I therefore made the most important phone call I have ever made to date. I called my dad’s ex-wife, for she is a nurse and had her listen to dad. She told me what to do, I told the nurse, I wanted him on medication to help, they wouldn’t, I then asked for hospice, they told me that was my job to call them. I then made the choice to have him moved to the hospital. While waiting for the ambulance, I asked if they would change his wet gown and sheets. They only changed his gown.I then became mad, my fear was gone, I had to take care of my dad. When the EMT’s arrived, I listened to nurses lie about the events of that morning. But this is not what this story is about. As soon as we got dad to the hospital, they medicated him, put a clean gown on him and put a tube into his nose to get his tongue off the back of his throat. His agony was instantly gone. So over the next forty plus hours, my husband, my daughter and I stayed with him. Different family members came and went, but we stayed. We laughed, we cried and we prayed with and for him. I asked his nurse if they could move my dad to the side of the bed some, so I could lay beside him off and on. They did, they did everything we asked of them and more. They brought us food, snacks, drinks, but most of all respect for us and my dying father. I lay beside him and even fell asleep while holding his hand, I was no longer afraid of his dying. I found it to be a blessing that he was finally going home and we got to take the earthly walk with him, as he passed into the next life. As my father’s breathing begin to slow down I didn’t leave his side. I used my husband’s phone to play music for him and I.I played old christian hymns for me and old country music for him. I lay beside him and watched him. His eyes began to open ever so slightly (was told this happens during the last stages of death and the hearing is the last to go) and he was looking down at me. My husband came around to the other side of the bed and him and I set and held on to my dad. He held my dad’s hand and I had my arm across his chest so I could feel his last breaths. My daughter was resting on the other bed, and we realized the time was near, she got up and came over to his bed and held onto him also. We all watched him take his last breath. It was 1:56 am on Tuesday November 29th 2011 when the doors flew open for my dad so he could walk and go home.I don’t remember who saw it first, but it had started to snow very hard. I love to watch it snow, did dad know that, I don’t know if he did or not. However, God knew. The funeral director was called and it took him several hours to get there. We didn’t leave dad’s side, we laughed, we cried, and we prayed for his soul. We were back to where we started. This walk into death with my dad. One of the hardest things I ever had to do was to walk out of that room. I didn’t want to leave him. As my husband Ray went out to warm up the car, my daughter Valerie and I stood in the hall. I told her to turn around because we would not want to see them wheel him down the hall with his face covered. I thanked God for letting me be brave through all of this and all of a sudden bright sparkling lights burst before my eyes. I panicked, I didn’t know what was happening. I thought I was going to faint, so we went to the nurses station so I could set down. Now I truly believe it was my dad telling me to open the damn door so he could go home. Thank you God, Ray, and Valerie for helping me to be brave, I love and miss you dad.
My dad, Donald William Van Hoorebeke. November 18,1934-November 29, 2011.

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