Sunday, October 21, 2012

Some thoughts

It has been three weeks now since dad passed. I meant to do this post earlier, but it took some time to get myself and kids back on schedule and caught up with things that had been put on hold while we were driving back and forth to Cedar Rapids and being at the hospice house for a week. I just want to share a few thoughts, mostly for my own memory.

During the month of September I took each of the girls back to Cedar Rapids to visit so they could spend a little time with Papa. I was planning on taking Aidan home on Sunday afternoon, September 23. Mom called Saturday morning the 22nd to say that they were going to the hospice house to try to get dad's ammonia levels in check. I was hosting a baby shower at my house in which friends were staying overnight that day, so I kept with that plan and took Aidan to Cedar Rapids Sunday afternoon. Dad was sleeping when we got to the hospice house, but before we left he sort of woke up and Aidan waved to him and said hi and Papa waved back. Gave him a kiss and said we would be back in the morning. That was the last time I saw dad awake and aware of what was going on.

He slept the whole time we were there on Monday. We met with the hospice people and made the decision to keep him at hospice house because we were having a hard time keeping his pain under control and were more comfortable having instant access to the nurses and doctors to adjust medication as needed. We were very sad about this because dad hated hospitals and had really wanted to be at home. Had we taken him home though we would have had to call a hospice nurse, wait for her to get there, have her assess, call the doc and adjust medicine, go get medicine, etc. Just too long to get the needed pain relief.

Aidan and I had to go home Monday, but I decided to come back Tuesday with both girls and we would stay until the end. Tuesday was the worst day. I got a call as we were driving that they were taking dad to the hospital because he had pulled his catheter out and now had blood clots and problems from doing that. Got another call that the hospital doctors gave them the option of surgery to try to remove blood clots or take him back to hospice and just make him as comfortable as possible. Mom, Chris, Carrie, (and I agreed) chose to go back to hospice, as surgery and anesthesia could have gone bad. Justin was awesome and volunteered to watch the girls for the afternoon so I could be at hospice house and help while they got dad's meds where they needed to be. It was the hardest day in my opinion because every 10 minutes dad would try to get out of bed, so we had to stop him and convince him to lay down again. I have no idea how Mom, Chris and Carrie did this all day long. 

The rest of the week seemed to be smoother. His pain seemed to be under control and he slept. The girls did amazing. There was a little play area very close to dad's room so the girls could go in there and play kitchen, babies, color, watch videos. The hospice house and staff were amazing as well. The nurses and other staff I believe must be angels here on earth. They were so kind and caring to all of us. They have to care for their patients and make them comfortable, but also comfort the families who are enduring such difficult times.

Friday afternoon I told Aaron he didn't have to come until Saturday after Aidan's football game. He gave Aidan the choice and Aidan said they should go to Cedar Rapids and help mommy. I am so thankful they did. I think Tuesday-Thursday nights Carrie and Mom stayed overnight with dad. Friday night Carrie stayed but went home when Chris got there at 5:00ish I think. This was the earliest Chris had gone. Because Aaron had come I was able to get up and be over there about 6:30. I stopped at HyVee which was right near hospice to grab some donuts for everyone. When I got back in the car the song "If You Get There Before I Do" by Collin Raye was on. This was a song we had chosen for the slide show we would show at dad's visitation. I have not heard that song on the radio in a long time. I felt it was a sign that maybe I was too late and hurried the 2 blocks over to hospice house. Chris was sleeping in the corner. I sat next to dad for awhile, but it was dark and I was tired so I laid on the couch and started falling asleep. At 7:11 my best friend, Sara, texted me, "Are you awake?". I again cannot tell you a time that she has texted me that early. It did wake me up. A couple minutes later the nurse came in to do the shift change just as dad made kind of a moan. Chris and I popped up and went over, she listened to his heart, told me to call mom. She had just called the hospice asking for an update, they had walked down to ask, I called her and told her to come down. Chris and I held his hand, I stroked his hair, he took a few more breaths and was gone.

I am so thankful that Chris and I were able to be with him. I am so thankful Sara felt she should text me at that time. Looking back at the song on the radio and the timing of Sara's text, you might think I am nuts, but I feel they were my signs I needed to be awake and present in that moment.

After we had the room all packed up and Chris, Carrie and I were standing outside by our cars, Carrie said something about wondering what dad was doing up in heaven right then. She said he was probably getting a tour. Chris said he was probably asking about the power grid situation and how everything was powered. Carrie said that they probably told him the power source is God and dad would have been like, good deal, pretty reliable source. :) The next morning at church, as the pastor was starting to give his message, he put up a graphic of a simple circuit (battery, wires, light, switch). He started talking about how God is the source of power! We all looked at each other and smiled. How amazing! It was like dad was confirming our thoughts from the day before and letting us know he had made it okay and all was well. :)

Visitation was Tuesday and was so lovely to see so many family and friends. I dressed the girls in red dresses which I don't normally do because I don't like to be really matchy matchy. But on this night I discovered it was super easy when someone asked me which were my kids I could say find the girls in red, and the cute little boy narrating Papa's slide show for anyone that had a question about any of the pictures. :)

Dad's Navy picture, flag, picture of his ship, the USS Saginaw

Flowers, Dad's bible, wooden cross he held his week in hospice, urn he made for himself, yellow rose from mom because dad always gave her a yellow rose on special occassions, picture of mom and dad, framed quote I made that Dad had by his bed at home since he was diagnosed. It reads, "God Our Father, Walk through my house and take away all my worries and illnesses, please watch over and heal my family. In Jesus name, Amen."

Cute girls in red

Funeral was Wednesday. This is the only family picture we have from that day. The lovely woman in the middle is Helen Martinson. She was my Grandma and Grandpa Van Sickel's best friend. Dad has always kept in close touch with her. Aidan wore a tie because, well, he is super handsome. :) But also because he wanted to wear one to one of his preschool Christmas programs. Mom and Dad had gone to that program and ever since then Dad joked if Aidan wanted to wear a tie again whenever he was dressing up. He got such a kick out of the fact that Aidan had wanted to wear a tie to his preschool program.

All of my Van Sickel first cousins were able to be there. All of them. And 2 second cousins. So happy that our family that lives out east was able to make it back.


I am so thankful for everyone's prayers, cards, messages, and hugs. Friends that drive 4 hours to spend 2 minutes with me to give me a hug at the visitation. Friends who let me borrow dresses so I don't have to stress about shopping for something suitable to wear. Friends that drive 10 hours in 2 days to give me hug and smile and randomly propose going on a girls trip to give me something happy to look forward to. ;) Thankful for friends and family whose gifts of memory stones and wind chimes allow me to have tangible things to look at and remember this time. I am so thankful for all the amazing people that surround me and my family...and my new angel up in heaven watching over us all. 
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angee said...

Beautiful, Amy. Just beautiful!

Betsy said...

Sniff, sniff. Hugs to you!

Kristin Vondracek said...

Awesome that you were able to do this! Very well put! Your Dad would be so proud of you!

Kristin Vondracek said...

Awesome that you were able to do this! Very well put! Your Dad would be so proud of you!

Kim said...

Great...just great! Sniff! :) I did something similar after my brother died. It's great to have to reflect on and keep as something to remember. love it.

Rochelle said...

I'm so glad you wrote that all out. You'll want to remember it. I totally believe that God wanted you to be aware and present as your dad passed. I love that God speaks to us so specifically and personally.

The tears are so close ... praying for you and your family, Amy.