Sunday, February 21, 2010

Walking with God and the Saints



My father passed away in his sleep,in hospital, on Friday, February 19, 2010 at 2:30am after suffering a cardiac failure. Despite partially successful resuscitation attempts 3 times, he succumbed.

Although he had been acutely seriously ill since December, and hospitalized since January 13, this was a shock, in that he was doing very well, and it was planned that he would be going to the rehabilitation ward to prepare him for coming home. He was to be transferred there as soon as later the same day as his death.

Our family takes comfort in the fact that he did not consciously suffer, that he had excellent in-hospital care, and appropriate resuscitation measures were taken, then stopped when futile. The doctor on call was compassionate and had excellent interpersonal as well as technical skills, and my father did not die alone but surrounded by truly compassionate professional caregivers, if not family.


February 15, 2010 was Family Day in Canada, a rather new holiday, but one which we all spent with my father in his hospital room. He was in good spirits and very much enjoyed seeing us all together, especially his 10 year old grandson, my nephew, whom he helped raise, and with whom he shares a middle name, Paul.

Saint Paul  is the patron saint of the parish my father attended faithfully in the last few years. He took great spiritual strength and comfort from returning to regular mass attendance, now one of the senior members of this new congregation, when once he was the altar boy for the old cathedral dedicated to Saint Mary which was across the street from his childhood home.

He died in a hospital founded by the nursing sisters of Saint Joseph--in the newest wing, across the street from where he was born in the same hospital’s historic maternity home, literally an old mansion. It was the hospital where he always felt safest and best cared for. After he died, a priest came to his bedside to pray for him, something he would have wanted.

In keeping with his own Catholic faith, and good character, I am confident he now walks with God, in the company of his grandparents, parents, brother, and extended family, protected by all these Saints, while we who loved him so dearly protect his memory and his legacy on earth--the one thing he cared about most of all, his family.


My Dad and I shared a love of athletics, travel, international cuisines, and classical music. We were once opera buddies, and concert and ballet buddies. He was knowledgeable without being pedantic, and preferred Tchaikovsky for a stirring musical experience. We were hoping for another trip to Italy together.

My father was always proud of his family’s accomplishments, and spent a career putting other people through university: his older brother, my mother, and my sister and I, for more degrees than he initially planned. At one point he had 3 of us in university, in graduate or professional schools: my sister in the Faculty of Education, her then husband in the Faculty of Engineering, and me in the Faculty of Medicine.

He never complained, though he did once say in frustration “I want to retire eventually!”, then caught himself and asked if I needed money for books and instruments. He was also the man behind the camera for the graduation pictures, the chauffeur, the mover, the builder, and the one who bravely let his daughter travel on scholarship to a variety of “scary places”--at least ones scary according to the news. At the nadir of my medical school experience he was the rock I leaned on. Unaccustomed to this being necessary, he still stepped up and was my support and strength as long as I needed it.

He was often the man behind the women, and a feminist before it was popular. He always encouraged us to excel at our chosen professions, to behave with integrity, and to remain lady-like while doing so. Although he was an outstanding athlete, and I had glimpses growing up of what an excellent father he would have been to sons, he never once gave any impression of having wished for sons over daughters, or being dissatisfied with his girls.


The last 10 years have been filled with the joy of a grandson who has lived with my father, mother, and sister  since birth. A traditional father, in that he was the breadwinner, and the “outside man” when it came to household chores, my father was also good at helping out in the kitchen and with cleaning, as he was raised by a working mother. However, his willingness and availability to take on baby care only came with grand-fatherhood. It was both surprising and hilarious to have him arrive home from a coffee with his buddies, with all sorts of grandfatherly advice on diaper rash solutions--less surprising and hilarious than watching him change a diaper though.

My nephew shares his left-handedness, athleticism, height, and good-nature. When he skates it is like watching a boyhood version of my father. When he jumps to fix something in the house, or help out with something, it is always as the young boy modeling himself on my father. He now says often, “Now I’m the only boy”, and worried about who will clean the filters because, “I don’t know how to do that; well I watched grandpa, but I am not sure”. He volunteered that he can do the barbecuing, and accompanied us to the grocery store, remembering to get buns because Grandpa was the one who always did that.

My father took pride in a job well done, was meticulous, and was rigorous about safety. My nephew does things like use a saw for a school project exactly the way my father taught him--carefully, safely, and precisely. The tool room was their room, and now will be his. The same is true of the garden shed and the garage,  male domains they shared in taking care of the family home.

It saddens me that my nephew will go through adolescence and adulthood without my father’s wise counsel, but heartens me that at least statistically he is above the age range for the type of “early loss” that is a more profound psychological negative. It also encourages me that he will have so many good memories and such positive modeling from my father on how to be an excellent man, professional, citizen, friend, and most of all, a family man. Then again, we are all, regardless of age, feeling this loss acutely, and each in our own way.


Though I have complained, and made jokes, about being the GP, ER doc, family shrink, nurse, night nurse, nurse’s aid, and chief cook and bottle washer for my Dad during the month I was home with him before he went to hospital, it has been an honour and a privilege to have him allow me to do so. He has always been far too independent before, so that even needed medical advice had to be given covertly--a word to sister or mother, or a surreptitious comment to a nurse or a doctor when he was in hospital previously.

I am glad that I was able to rearrange my life to stay on past the holidays, and to be with him and the rest of my family. I am proud that he turned to me for care when he fell and could not get up, had a major nosebleed and had to go to hospital, fell again and split his forehead open, went through follow-up visits to the ER and his GP, and then admission to hospital and a 1 month stay. I was able to visit almost daily, by car with my mom, or solo on the train. This gave us now even more precious time together.


I regret that he placed such great faith in a GP who seems to have decided that he was not worth more effort, and allowed his medical status to decline, particularly in the last 6-8 months, when simple measures would have greatly improved his health and well-being (iron pills, a consultation, decreasing his Coumadin dose, adequate pain relief for his arthritis, adequate medication for Parkinson’s), and prevented complications that further strained his system, and resulted in further cardiac damage.

In contrast, the professionals at his “home hospital”, who met him for the first time, were more actively concerned, more encouraging, and did a splendid job of recognizing that he had many easily treated conditions. They unfailingly believed he was worth the time, effort, and taxpayers’ expense. They were compassionate without being condescending.

The male nurse who saved him one night with hours of fearless cardiac care, unintimidated by blood results and monitored numbers, a mechanical mitral valve, profuse GI bleeding, or a newbie intern, took great pride in his accomplishment, joy in a social visit when my father came back to the ward from the ICU, and seemed to know and appreciate him as a person, and his family as well. More so than the GP of decades.


I am trying hard to forget her cavalier attitude in allowing his hemoglobin to drop from a normal 120 to below 100, below 90, below 80 which made him weak, unable to eat, and despondent; or his INR to rise from a normal 2.5 to 4.5, 6.0, 9.0, without telling him to go immediately to hospital (at 4.5-6.0) until he started bleeding to death at 12. I half-wish I didn’t know about her direct advice NOT to get a transfusion when his hemoglobin was 67 (transfuse at 70-75), or her failure to call at all when he had a hemoglobin of 69; and wish I hadn’t heard her say later to my mother, “Well they would only give him one unit anyway” (actually 3 that time; and more later).

I am sorry he yelled at me every time I mentioned her name, but happy I backed off enough so that he died thinking she did genuinely care about him and had helped him professionally. He believed she had saved him by re-starting medication he had been started on in hospital, and needed, but was discharged without (due to bureaucracy) in 2005; and I didn’t tell him how much work I did to make sure he got it, including letting the GP’s nurse insult me for identifying myself as “his daughter, and a doctor” in an effort to make sure my concern was taken seriously (no one had called back for the previous 2 "daughter" messages). He believed the same nurse cared enough to get him an emergency appointment this past December 22 with the on call doctor, and didn’t know that she only did so after my sister called her again when she failed to answer a message, and bullied her into it.


The day he fell asleep and died, he was in a lot of abdominal pain, during the afternoon, and early evening, but had a visit with my mother and myself, asked about my nephew, and then had a brief phone conversation with my sister, and another one with me later on. His last words to me at 8:38pm were “I feel terrible… stop calling, you are waking up the whole…city”. Not profound, but then he was in pain, thought he would see me the next afternoon, and was concerned about others in his semi-private room. His words were also typical him--to the point, straight shooter, and conscious of others. He later received adequate pain medication and fell asleep with relative ease.

When the doctor called at 2am to tell us about the first cardiac arrest, I am glad I took the phone call, and helped prepare the others, then stayed on the phone until the doctor said, “If it were my dad, I would come to hospital”. We woke my nephew who began to cry; somehow he knew, even though we at first only said, “Grandpa is very sick”, and then my sister insisted that he had to come and “Say goodbye”. We arrived 10 minutes after he died, but he had not been conscious.

Perhaps it was best, though sad, to see him lying as if asleep, and to say our final words to his spirit. I stroked his hand and his brow, and even forgot about the now healed place where I had repaired the gash with steri-strips. His brow, though wrinkled, was at peace, and his lovely grey hair soft. Odd to stroke one’s father as one does a child, yet comforting.


The lilacs are in honour of the ones he planted: first as a young and vigorous newlywed, in the garden of my parents' first house, the one he built by hand, including mixing and pouring the concrete foundation, because my mother loved lilacs; the next were planted, through the hard and heavy clay, when he was weakened by arthritis and Parkinson’s, in their final home and garden, because he still loved my mother so very much.

He too was, and is, much loved, and will be forever missed.


No questions this time.
Please feel free to share, and comment.

21 comments:

Another daugher of the book said...

My condolences to you. I'm really lost for words after reading this, he was an honorable man blessed with a wonderful family. He will be part of you and in your hearts forever. I hope you and your family find some comfort in this difficult time, appreciate and be joyful of the enriched life you had together.

coolred38 said...

I extend my heartfelt condolences to you and your family, Chiara, and after that moving eulogy all I can say is...I wish I had met him and could call him a friend.

ellen557 said...

From God we come and to Him we return.

InshaAllah he will be seated with God.

Praying for you sis.

Daisy said...

My condolences to you. He was indeed a wonderful person. May his soul rest in eternal Bliss and peace.

Jay Kactuz said...

Chiara,

My sincere condolences to you and the rest of your family. There are really no words for occasions like these.

The sting of death is always hard, no matter how inevitable it is. Be thankful for the good years.

Kactuz

oby said...

Chiara...

What a moving, stirring tribute you wrote about your father. I cried and smiled and could almost hear him talking to you. He seemed like a really lovely man whose sometimes straightforward exterior could be melted by all the women in his life who loved him! It sounded like you had a wonderful relationship with him. I am so happy for you for that.

I am so deeply sorry for your loss and hope that your mother is able to manage her grief. She has you and your sister and nephew to turn to and I know all of you will be there for each other. As you said everyone grieves in their own way and their own time.

A special "I'm sorry" about his GP. It is nice that he passed confident that he got the very best. But I know for you it must have been difficult not being his physician and seeing things you might have done differently. My husband's dad has prostrate cancer. He flew to India just to go over the doctor's care plan and to consult with him...so I can understand that situation.

My blessings to you and your family at this difficult time. However, he is walking with God and smiling down on all of you he loves so very much.

Susie of Arabia said...

So sorry for your loss, Chiara. What a lovely tribute you have written for him. My own dad died when I was just 11 and I still miss him to this day. I wish I could have known him as an adult.

irisheyesksa said...

My deepest sympathies on your loss. May he rest in peace.

Susanne said...

I am so sorry for your loss. Your dad has been on my mind often since you told me about him a few weeks back and mentioned him not long ago in a post. I was really shocked to see this today. This tribute you wrote was touching. I cried when I read about your visiting him after his death. Such a super-sweet visual just touched my heart 'til the tears fell.

Your dad sounds a lot like mine although my dad has two sons. Still I am the oldest and I never felt inferior to the boys. My dad loves his grandson just as your father loved "Little Paul." Really my heart breaks for him although I am SO happy your nephew had someone like your father to love and guide him during his formative years. I know he will never forget the influence your father had in his life and indeed you all will continue to marvel and smile as you see your father through your nephew.

What a wonderful legacy of a man who sacrificed so much for his family. I appreciate your sharing such a person with us and allowing us to grieve with you during your loss.

With Love & Prayers,
Susanne

Add said...

Chiara,

I am deeply sorry for your loss and extended my condolances to your family and close ones. May he rest in peace. May God grant you all patience thorugh the these times.

Maha Noor Elahi said...

Chiara,
I am so sorry for your loss....He seems to have been a great man...it is an honor to read about him...may he rest in peace...

Souma said...

my condolences, so sorry for your loss, words fail me *hug*

Carol Fleming said...

Chiara,

My deepest condolences on the loss of your father. He sounds like a unique and lovely person and thank you sharing parts of him with us.

With Sympathy,
Carol

Achelois said...

Dear Chiara

I noticed your blog's link on Susanne's blog today and excitedly clicked only to discover this sad news but beautiful eulogy.

May your father's soul rest in peace, amen.

I lost my father on Feb. 23rd three years ago and yesterday was his death anniversary. I know the pain.

Abu Abdullah said...

Me and my wife convey our deepest condolences to you.

We are very sorry for the sad loss. From what i have read here your father was an exemplary man in all walks of life. And it is indeed great that he spent so much on all of your education and even his son-in-laws education thats really remarkable.

In fact trust me when i read about him in your blog about educating all of you, I just said to myself "I must also help in the education of my wife and kids", so I could say he is like one of the many role models to me in raising a family.

He really sounds like a person who never rested and now he rests in peace. And he left behind a good example.

Having known you for quiet some time whom we both found to be a very good and well cultured lady by both western and eastern standards, now I know very well that all your good qualities can be attributed to the good upbringing of your parents.

I am sure he would be missed and we can take solace by reflecting on the memories and his accomplishments in raising a good family.

Take Care and Have Patience....

Warm Regards,
Abu Abdullah and Nomadic Gourmet

Chiara said...

I and my family thank each and every one of you, and those who sent emails as well or instead, for your wonderful expressions of sympathy for our loss.
I have always thought that these expressions of condolences are valuable to those who have lost someone, and now I appreciate just how much.

Thank you sincerely from all of us.

Chiara said...

Another Daughter of the Book-thank you, I am sure you are right, that he will live in our hearts forever, and will often be called to mind.

Coolred--thank you, he would have loved such a straight shooter as yourself. You have excellent chat therapy skills, though I am not sure I could imitate in a professional setting the highly effective, "oh shit chiara...for real"

Ellen--thank you for your prayers, they are much appreciated.

Daisy--thank you for your kind words, and lovely blessing. They are most welcome.

Jay--thank you so much. The sting is hard, but we are grateful for the good years and that there were so many.

Chiara said...

Oby--thank you for your wonderful words. You are so right that my mother is probably the hardest hit, and as "death of spouse" is always near the top of the greatest life stressors list, we are keeping a special watch over her.
Yes the GP part is trying, and was again yesterday when I went through his meds to prepare them for disposal. I found a particularly appropriate prescription, and thought perhaps I had judged her too harshly. No, it was from the same specialist who DID phone to get him in hospital, and took him in to his inpatient ward.
As I am sure you know, the best physicians do question themselves, rely on appropriate consultation, and second guess whether they did their very best. She seems to have done none. She left a message for my mother, her (now former) patient of decades, "Hello, I'm sorry about his death. I'll catch up with you later." That was 3 days ago.
I hope your father-in-law receives the best of care, and is comforted by your love.

Susie--thank you so much. I am sorry for your loss, but as one of my Dad's fears is that my nephew would forget him, it gives solace to know that like your father he will never be forgotten.

Irisheyesksa--I am so glad you are reading here. Thank you for your thoughtful words, and lovely prayer.

Chiara said...

Susanne--Your words are very kind. I am so glad you have a father who was put to the test of have boys and a girl and treats you with equal doses of love and respect. I am sure most fathers do, but some do not, and it is so important to affirm those that do.
I liked that you called my nephew "Little Paul" and you captured very well their relationship and my father's putting family first always.
Again though probably most fathers do, it is a privilege to be part of such a family, and this most fatherly of roles should be affirmed.

Add--thank you so much for your kind words and thoughtful prayers. They are especially welcome from you as a honorary Italian and definite Canuck! :)

Maha--thank you very much for your sincere condolences and prayers. He was a wonderful father, and more to others, and he will be greatly missed.

Chiara said...

Souma--thank you, hugs are most appreciated at a time like this, and I feel the warmth of yours.

Carol--thank you for extending your sympathies. In writing this post, I did appreciate the sad irony of both of us in this corner of the blogosphere grieving. A widow's loss is distinct however, and particularly so unfortunately without the benefit of physical closeness. I wish you all the best in your journey through grief, and towards healing.

Achelois--Welcome, and thank you for your condolences. I am sorry for your loss as well. My father's funeral and internment were Feb 23, so we now share that day of remembrance. Please visit again.

Abu Abdullah and the Nomadic Gourmet--as always you have both been sensitive and supportive. Thank you for you kind words here, in emails, and on chat. My father would be so pleased that he contributed in any way to supporting your family's goals of higher education, and that you felt he was such a success as a father.

A sincere thank you again to all who have expressed their sympathies here or in other ways.

Anthrogeek10 said...

Chiara,

That was such a moving eulogy. Your Father reminds me of my own, who raised all of us girls (no boys) to be strong, intellengent independent women. I think he and your Father would have made fast friends.
Abu Abdullah said it well when he said to have patience. As you know I am sure....
Du'as for you and your family.
anthrogeek10

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