Accompanying Dad – By Guest Blogger Theresa Knapp

Shared by PPCFL supporter Theresa Knapp

The ER doctor came back and gave me the cut throat sign! Horrified at his way of telling me, that he was a goner, he said the CT scan confirmed that my 93 year old father had a Saddle Embolus. Also referred to as the “widow maker”. We were placed on the Hospice floor and he was left to die. For some time not one person came in to check on him. Being a retired RN, I went out to the floor and raised cane, because he was dehydrated and had a temperature. He was still living and why weren’t measures being taken to comfort him? Two of my sisters flew in from different states that evening and said their good -byes just before midnight. I stayed with him that night as he remained unresponsive, I finally fell asleep. When I awoke the next day I looked at my dad and he was looking at me. He said, “I’m hungry!” He improved throughout the day, enough to where we placed him in Hospice on Disability and brought him home the next morning. Needless to say, being an advocate saved my dad’s life, for at least another 6 ½ months.

We didn’t have a main level bedroom at our home, therefore we made the dining room his hospital room as he could no longer climb stairs. In the next few months he went from using a walker, to needing to be placed in a wheelchair, to being completely bedridden. Through all these losses of his independence this good man, this faithful Catholic, never complained and accepted this as his fate. I knew he was in pain and it only worsened. Though, all he ever asked for was another pain pill when needed. I never heard him wishing for death to come sooner than it was taking. It never occurred to me or my family members to consider speeding up his death or ending his life prematurely. We knew he was in God’s hands and when it was his time, we would wait for it. We believe all life is sacred and precious from conception to natural death. Even though his care became more difficult, challenging and outright messy, I considered it an honor and privilege caring for my father. Our children, who were in Middle School and High School, learned such beautiful life lessons in caring for a loved one, seeing their Grandfather slipping from life. Our son, who is a high functioning Autistic would glove up, gown up and don a mask for some of the more unpleasant aspects of his care, though he was always ready and willing to help me, no matter how uncomfortable this was to him. A mother could never have been prouder! Our daughter pitched in also and never shunned her ailing Grandpa, she would play the piano often, as this was one of his few enjoyments left. My husband was my rock and helped me so often with either physical tasks, or supporting me emotionally and spiritually.

Exactly a week before he died, when I was making him breakfast, he asked me if I let anyone in the home last night. Denying it, he asked me again. I asked why? He told me he had four visitors during the night, two that sat on his bed and two that were at the head of his bed. I asked him what they said, he said, “nothing”. I asked if he said anything to them, he said “nothing”. I asked him, “would you like them to return” and he smiled and said, “Oh yes”! I felt these had been heavenly visitors. After breakfast the same morning, he was looking intently out the window from his bed, I asked him what are you looking at? He said, “I’m watching the construction workers out there working on the culvert.” I didn’t think he could see out on the street, so I took a look. There was nothing but the same old pine trees outside his window. So I asked him later if they were still working out there and he said, yes indeed. Again, I felt he was being graced with preparation for leaving this world. All four of his daughters took turns in caring for their loving father that last week. Many Rosaries and Divine Mercy Chaplets were prayed, even by our non-Catholic family members. He took his last breath as his loved ones, who were surrounding his death bed, were praying the Chaplet, it was a peace filled death and a blessing to all of us, bonding us forever as the family of Bill Helms.

I believe we all grew closer to God and to each other through this encounter in the death of our beloved father. When I look back, I see it as being one of the most precious and treasured times in my life. It was truly a time of Divine Mercy, trusting God and having faith, knowing He was always with us through it all.

Theresa Knapp

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