In January my husband and I had to rush my Dad to emergency. We had to take a strange route to avoid traffic. We also had to keep him calm. He was ironically excited in his delirium from level 10 pain.
We thought he would need to stay a few days but in reality the hospital became the centre point for our whole family for a month. We either gathered around Dad or hung out in the visitor lounge while he slept. We thought it was the very end. We all said our goodbyes. Every day.
We all got exhausted beyond belief.
But then Dad got a bit better and my sisters had to fly home to Queensland. Then Dad went home which was a bit unexpected but a real bonus. The hospital had nursed him back to a pretty good state. Whenever he got weak again he was gifted some more time by some blood transfusions. And it was the most precious time ever.
It was deep relational time. Mum and Dad needed it because they had lost a lot of time in the middle of their long love story. They had been divorced for 36 years between the ages of around 40 and 75. The lost years. They had met at 22 and were now 85. They had only been back together for 10 years and they were inseparable. My mum has love letters all over the those from Dad. This was a long love saga.
February, March and April were precious but also tough for Mum. She got exhausted from the cycles of watching Dad come close but escape death every 3 weeks when he got some donated blood. He was tough and he was not ready. Until he was.
But before that time came we got impacted by another loss.
At Easter my youngest daughter and I got absolutely blown away by the sudden death of one of her friends. Her beautiful 17 year old friend. She passed from life on earth to glory with Jesus in the blink of an eye.
It was a massive shock though and I could hardly sleep and wept so much for my friends who lost their daughter and my daughter grieved her friend Jayna. We had lived on their farm for half a year in 2015 and we knew what a huge ball of joy and sunshine Jayna was among her family and as she walked around between her chickens and her sheep and her Grandmas house.
Why do some die young and healthy, and suddenly, and yet some die very slowly even though they are so ill?
In late April I even asked God ‘why are you letting Dad’s time drag on and on?’ Dad was suffering and sad and exhausted by how hard it was to take every step, to go through each day. Mum’s stress levels were so high I thought she may have a stroke. It seemed that each week Dad gained, Mum lost off her own life. But on this day as I stood in the bathroom and wailed to God that death was too slow and painful, I heard God speak into my heart ‘I am not finished with him yet’.
So then I had peace and knew God had a reason.
Indeed my Dad’s character had been changing so much every week. God was refining him more and more. The traces of the hard man he used to be were vanishing. He was being so patient and kind and we grew so close in March and April. I grew to love him more than I ever had.
The next day (April 30) I was down in Midland dropping my husband at the mechanic to get his car. I had felt intensely depressed all afternoon without any reason and now I started to feel sick. Like really peculiar. Weak all over. At the moment when I was to leave my husband I didn’t know if I could manage to drive home. I told him and we wondered what to do. Then I said “I’ll play loud music all the way home to keep my mind alert’. I drove up the hill again towards home, and tried hard to focus on the road. Once inside our door I peeled off my jacket and literally crawled into my bed so weak. I felt something major was going on. I texted my 3 siblings ‘I feel really peculiar. Do you? Maybe Dad is about to die?’ I messaged them at 3.33pm.
What was happening was that my gorgeous nephew had just passed away in an accident, 1 km away. He had a fall at a quarry. At that moment when I was with my husband downhill. My sister’s beautiful son. He left earth for heaven at around 3pm. My mind did not know, but my soul definitely felt it. Like an earthquake. Perhaps because I was so nearby? Who can know these things.
Later that evening I got out of bed to pick up my daughter and then the news suddenly came to us by phone. Our family began to mourn. Then I knew why God had kept my Dad alive until this time. We needed Dad to still be there for Mum when we found out. We needed him for us too.
I doubt there is any worse experience than to lose a young member of your family. To lose your own child. Or your own nephew or cousin. It is too difficult for me to even write about. It has rocked our world.
One of my other worst experiences was having to go tell my frail parents the next morning.
If you ever hear about anyone passing away, don’t contact their immediate family for a few days or a week. They really need time to tell each other and to take the blow. Someone had texted my elderly mum some condolences at 6am that morning. I am relieved she had not checked her phone.
She knew in her soul though.
When I walked in her door she exclaimed that she had had horrendous nightmares all night. I knew why. Her soul had felt the tragedy. maybe her soul was grieving with her daughter (my sister) all night long before she even knew what had happened.
It took me more than an hour to work up courage to tell my parents. I was literally shaking. I was terrified to deliver such news. Over breakfast Mum was already talking about her intense grief over Dad going soon. I looked at my husband and then we all had a prayer time together for a while. Then I told them.
That was the toughest day for our family. Loss and grief. And knowing the pain my sister and her children were in.
Some days after our gorgeous Moses went to be with Jesus, my Dad started to let go of living. One day I saw him having a mini stroke from the grief of Moses when another family member came over and we were talking about Moses. No one else realised what was going on but I saw all the signs.
The most beautiful thing that happened was that Dad declared ‘I am going to be Moses first visitor’. Dad had an extraordinary mind and extraordinary heart. So his words carried much meaning and impacted us a lot. They gave us so much comfort I can not describe it.
Some more days passed and then Dad told us he was ready. Ready for the end. He wanted to move into the Palliative Care ward. His previous blood transfusion had not helped him at all. His blood cancer was starving his body of oxygen. He knew and he decided it was time.
So Dad moved into a room in a small and beautiful Palliative Care ward and we began to walk with him towards his end. The nurses walked with us through this and they were so caring and gentle. For 6 or 7 days we were on bedside vigil. We helped him eat, we talked, and we put extra blankets on when he needed them. He had a lot of long sleeps. We hung out in the visitor lounges and we saw the grief counsellor. She told us people in grief need 5 hours of extra sleep or rest per day. She also told us grief upon grief like we had was called impacted grief and it was particularly difficult.
We talked. We rested. We took it in turns and we spent time together. We prayed over Dad and I played some gentle Hymns (from a Spotify playlist) when his breathing sounded distressed. When I did that his breathing calmed immediately. Quite a dramatic difference. I told him about it at one point when he was awake and he was amazed.
Our family became two separate camps. Two epicentres of grief. My mum and brother and I on vigil around Dad in the little End Of Life ward. In Perth. My two sisters and all their children in Queensland, deep in their grief over losing Moses.
We could actually hardly bear to connect with each other much. Each epicentre of grief was more than we could bear. We became like a family in two halves. Too broken too connect.
When death is happening in your life it lingers in the air. Literally. You can feel it. And you want it to lift. It is heavy.
You want to escape it and you do things like playing crazy happy music. Happiness can blow the death out of the air. You want fast food. You also seek comfort in each other. My brother and I felt so close. But sorrow does not go away so easily. The pain is a physical ache in your heart. Like your heart got pounded by a meat tenderiser. And you are SO EXHAUSTED. Just RIDICULOUSLY tired. You can’t manage normal life.
When you have a baby there are many ‘firsts’. In Palliative Care there are’lasts’. Last video phone calls with 3 close friends. Last calls with daughters far away. Last conversation. Last flannels on dads hot head. Last photos. Last foods eaten. Last drink.
Then last hours with Dad’s body that he didn’t need anymore. Looking so peaceful. It felt so natural t be with his body that God had gifted him for 85 years but was no longer needed. He had moved to heaven.
Death is so agonising. But I have to tell you that what I saw is that death is also sacred. It is sacred and holy.
In the last hours we felt that. We told Dad we loved him again and again. And then when he suddenly did not take another breath, it was so quiet and it was sacred. His face changed in the minutes before he stopped breathing and it was clear he left his body.
When we sat with him after wards there was so much peace on his face.
It is intense leading up to the moment but it is also a sacred place to be. That person is about to pass into the spiritual dimension that we do not know yet. No eyes have seen what awaits that person.
On the last day I saw him suffering so much. He was racked with fever and I anxiously awaited my Mum and brother to come back to the room. So I prayed weeping over his body, my arms upstretched toward heaven. I called out to God as I wept: ‘It is enough. Please take him today lord. It is enough suffering. I commit him to you Lord’.
The Bible says God knows the exact number of our days so I do not think my prayer sped up the process but God had me there being part of Dads parting. Wrestling with life and death for him.
I saw that it takes a LOT for the soul to leave the body. It is pretty glued to the body and it takes a LOT of sickness to the body to part the two. But when it is time it is time.
My Dad said many times: ‘I am not afraid to die’. He knew Jesus with his heart and he had asked for forgiveness for his sins. he had been walking the road with God more and more closely for years. He knew he was going to his Holy creator God. His Father in heaven.
I kept saying to Dad on those last two days; ‘Jesus is waiting for you with open arms Dad, you can go to Him, It is ok’. On the second last day he told me it was frustrating that he had almost lost his voice. I told him ‘soon Dad you will be singing at the top of your lungs in heaven’. He was happy at this thought.
I have found out that the daughter of my friend and also my Nephew Moses had both had an amazing time with Jesus the very day before they died. They had drawn away and had a quiet time with God. Praying. I believe God was preparing them.
I was right there when my Dad took his very last breath and then afterwards lay there breath-less. Silent and still. Released from his suffering. My Mum and brother and I were right there at that sacred moment. We saw that death is horrendous but it is also beautiful. Holy.
I have been present at 5 births and one death and they were equally the most sacred experiences of my life.
It is then that you truly know that the soul is a precious sacred being. An eternal being.
I am also now grieving my dear friend Sue. Sue loved Jesus and left earth for heaven two weeks ago. She was surrounded by her husband and daughters and close people. She was the closest to an angel on earth I have known. So gentle and always smiling.
Heaven is becoming crowded with people I love. I am so thankful that I will see them all again when my fleeting time on this earth is over. In the meantime I know they would all want me to embrace life.