“I saw him, like a Titan, with all the grace & faults, all the achievements, with great love, fullness.” His heart as large as the world. I feel love for us radiating from him. In his final moment he is a powerful force of goodness. He is full and vibrant with energy. “Then he shrank back into a distance; I saw him in death; and then he was gone.”
That is the vision I received when I prayed that if I might not be with him when he died, that it occur when I was in a state of meditation. Immediately upon opening my eyes the hospital called to say that my father had passed away. I drove to the hospital, parked illegally, arrived within 10 minutes of his death. He was emaciated, shrunken, like a starvation victim, and looked 30 years older than he was. “I went to the hospital. He is gone. In peace and with dignity. He is gone. My father is no longer alive. I felt at peace, too. His body---but the spirit is gone, and the moment of separation remains on his face. Will, pain, struggle, surrender, beauty, peace. And mystery. Love.”
I wrote in my journal, "My father died this afternoon, peacefully, with dignity." May 25, 1984. And today, "Theresa Marie Schiavo died, peacefully, with dignity." March 31, 2005.
The one brings back memories of the other.
It took two days for him to die. Days of numb unreality. Days in which I do not sleep; in which I drink wine to deaden myself, to cope. He died of blood poisoning, unable to expel the poisonous gases from his lungs. He died earlier, maybe 6 months earlier, but he was resuscitated in Intensive Care, where he was hooked up to a machine which breathed for him through a tube into his trachea, a machine that measured lung pressure, a heart monitor, a tube into his stomach that fed him, tubes for urine and feces collected in discreet bags, and numerous intravenous lines going into his bruised arms carrying saline, a pharmacopia of drugs, and morphine.
He was fully conscious in this hospital bed, in this place where he was tied down like Gulliver by multiple ropes. For 6 months I lip read or he wrote notes. He agreed that it was a worse experience than being a prisoner of war in North Africa, Italy, and then Poland. He fought valiantly to regain use of his emphysema-weakened lungs after the pneumonia that he caught in hospital had stopped him from breathing. In the first month in ICU he was winning. But bodies are not meant to be kept still. A blood clot moved from his leg into his lungs and a life of any independence from machines became unrecoverable.
He went through all the stages of death that Kubler Ross wrote of. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
One day he decided he was ready to die. It was Spring, there was a profound bliss about him; he was at peace with his final decision. The hospital called in lawyers, all the affidavits were in order. He said his goodbyes to us, refusing to let us stay and be with him as he died, asking that we go home.
Perhaps I understand that wish, perhaps I never will fully comprehend.
All the tubes were removed, save for a morphine drip. We were on a death watch while he valiantly faced his own death, consciously, his eyes were open, with such bravery it makes me weep to think of.
Beside his hospital bed he kept a rock with raw emeralds in it. This is the poem I wrote 20 years ago for him…
Earth treasures you mined
The mountains that spoke to you
Your ashes become rock and sand
Tumble with the springs.
Clear as that global sky
Purified by pain,
To our unconscious.
Separating from the world,
From your beloved family
Moving towards peace,
And something I must accept
Your death lives
Raw emeralds emerge in the rock.
Postcript: Terri, her tragic story, her death, pulled deep recollection out of me, and I opened a journal from 1984 today that I have not touched in 21 years...nearly tore me apart, opening that book, those memories, and I didn't think I could, but I managed it. Thank you ... xo