If I knew then what I know now

by Bonnie Bayard – May 16, 2012

If I knew then what I know now . .

If I knew then what I know now . . . my father would have spent the last week of his 87 years in the comfort of the home he built almost 60 years before, rather than three days in radiation isolation, drugged and strapped to the bed; then in ICU, lungs continually filling with fluid from the lack of movement the three days before. . .

If I knew then what I know now . .  we would have had the conversation we attempted to have, to allow him to express his wishes and our final expressions of caring and thanks, rather than the one sided “conversations” as he was unconscious and dying . . .

If I knew then what I know now . . . his life might have been shorter, but it would have been fuller, trading multiple surgeries, painful treatments, and long recoveries for the comfort of his daily rituals and comfortable surroundings with his family and friends. . .

If I knew then what I know now . . . I would have spared myself the anger toward not only his doctors, but myself, for not knowing, not giving him options for how he could live for the rest of his life, however long that might be . . .

If I knew then what I know now . .  I would have been more able and willing to help him acknowledge the inevitable with grace rather than denying it in fear. . .

If I knew then what I know now . . . I would have been able to acknowledge my own grief as well as my love for my dad, looking him in the eyes knowing there was someone still there, rather than looking at the dying shell of a man who was no longer fully there.  My belief is my dad could hear and see us whether he was in his body or not, AND it would have been a beautiful gift to look him in the eyes and to see him clearly one last time. . .

If I knew then what I know now . . . I would not have been hesitant to call hospice myself, to ask for support in giving my dad (AND my mom) options for the last leg of his journey here on earth. . .

Thankfully my dad did not die alone. Most of his immediate family was with him to usher him to his next life. I am so grateful for the ICU nurses, the respiratory therapists, and the hospice nurse who, that last day, did all they could to educate us about what was happening, what would happen, and what needed to be done to minimize any pain and discomfort for him. I felt very supported by them on that last day.

As we buried my dad at sea, there was for me, a healing of sorts. A beautiful fall day, on a beautiful old sailing ship, accompanied by all his family, Dad’s ashes were spread amongst a pod of playful dolphins surrounding us as we laid him to rest in the ocean. The surprise and the delight of having the dolphins show up to escort us to his final resting place was what my heart needed, a sign from Dad, letting me know all was well with him.

If I knew then what I know now . . . my father’s life could have been consciously lived to the end rather than dying before his life was complete.

If I knew then what I know now . . .