My dad’s diagnosis was a total shock. I was still grieving my mother and now I have to deal with this. “Really God?”
I remember sharing the news with my Deacon and Minister Icie after service. I could not get it all out before I broke down and started crying. I guess the development of my faith was still a work in progress. Minister Icie and my Deacon prayed with me and told me to trust God. That night I prayed to God. I wasn’t certain what my future held but I knew Who held my future.
I began doing research and talking to my dad about his treatment options. I was alarmed when he told me that his cardiologist advised him not to have chemo therapy. How dare she make a determination like that?! What exactly were her motives?! I needed to speak with her because I was very unhappy with her recommendation.
I obtained her telephone number from my dad. When I called she was out of the office. So I left a polite yet stern message asking that she call me back. When she did, i learned that she advised my dad not to have chemo therapy because his quality of life would diminish and that was a concern of his. I asked her if he chose to have chemo therapy what the prognosis would be. She said because he was already in stage IV, not good. I became sad all over again.
I spoke to my dad in an attempt to persuade him to have the treatments done. He was adamant that he did not want to. We talked about him moving to Philadelphia to be closer to me. He did not want to leave my mother. I could see trying to convince him of anything was futile so I dropped it. He continued on living and I continued to pray and believe God for his healing.
By his stripes my dad is healed.
The holiday season soon arrived and I spent Thanksgiving with my dad. It was different. It was the first holiday we had ever spent together without my mom. I know he was happy I was there. I also know he was lonely and missing his wife. I was concerned about him. I couldn’t help but think of the stories I had heard about how grieving spouses do not live much longer after losing their life partner. I was afraid for him. But I gave my fear to God and continued to pray.
The Christmas season was upon us and my plan was to relax. December 23, 2011, my sister friend and I made plans to cook and spend Christmas Day between one another’s apartments. She lived on the first floor and I was on the second so we could even stay in our pajamas if we wanted. How convenient was that?! That evening we discussed our plans to clean and cook on Christmas Eve.
I was tired and so I laid down to take a nap. My dad had called me earlier that day to inform me that he was not feeling well and was going to the emergency room. I checked on him periodically throughout the day and the last time we spoke they were running test and he promised to call when he returned home. At approximately 945pm the telephone rang, waking me from what was suppose to be a short nap. It was a doctor from Pitt County Memorial Hospital. My heart sank. The doctor was calling to inform me that my father had been admitted because he was having difficulty breathing. She went on to say that it was so severe that she wanted to intubate him but he was refusing. The doctor said that my dad told her he would not allow the procedure without speaking to me first, and she wanted to know if I could come to the hospital.
I didn’t know what to say. She lost me at they wanted to intubate him. Finally I responded, “I can come to the hospital but I probably won’t arrive until tomorrow morning.” She asked was I local to which I replied, “No, I live in Philadelphia.” She apologized because she assumed I was local. She then asked if I would speak to him over the phone because if they did not intubate him right away, he was not going to make it through the night.
My dad was afraid. He asked me what I thought?
What did I think?!
I wanted to scream YOU WILL DIE!!! Instead I reiterated what the doctor told me. I told him I was on my way. He said, “I will wait for you to get here.”
I called my aunt, my dad’s sister, who was in town at the time for the Christmas holiday. I explained what was going on and she said she would go back to the hospital. I got up and threw a few things in a bag, made some telephone calls, and got on the road. My sister wanted me to look for a flight. But the next one out wasn’t until the next morning. I was sleepy and I was looking at at least a seven hour flight. I thank God for my brother Will who talked to me most of the ride. I did have to pull over and go to sleep. But praise God I arrived safely the next morning around 7am.
The entire trip I was praying and asking God to have mercy and not let my dad die. All the while, every hour or so he had my aunt call and check on me. I chuckled because my mother did the same thing whenever I would come to visit.
Thankfully God answered my prayer and not only was he still alive but his breathing was normal. He still was not out of the woods, however. There was still the matter of the cancer which as it turned out was the cause of his breathing troubles. After a family discussion my dad decided to have the chemo therapy. The plan was after the treatments, when he was well enough, he would relocate to Philadelphia. In the meantime, someone needed to be there to handle my dad’s business while he was in the hospital. As well as care for him when he was discharged. Since I was not working I was the logical choice. Besides, he was my dad, and the way he cared for my mother…….there was no way I could say no.
“Honor thy father and thy mother that your days may be long.”
So, I contacted my landlord in Philadelphia and explained what was going on. I told them I would vacate the apartment in February.
My dad started treatment and I was handling his affairs. How ironic that I would be in North Carolina now. We had a lot of time to talk, and one conversation in particular was very enlightening and healing. I cannot recall how the conversation began. But in a nutshell we talked about my dislike for him when he and my mom started dating and how our relationship developed over the years. I told him despite any feelings I may have had about him, I truly admired how he cared for my mother til her death and that I would forever be grateful for that.
On January 27, 2012 I returned to Philadelphia and vacated my apartment. I gave away everything that would not fit in my car. And what I wanted to keep but couldn’t transport in my vehicle, I left in my girlfriend’s garage. I hate moving so much but I told myself this was it for a while. I’ll be in North Carolina caring for my dad and God will let me know my next move.
I arrived back in North Carolina on February 2, 2012. It was a Thursday. I had caught a cold while I was in Philadelphia and I was feeling pretty bad. I did not want to go to the hospital to see my dad for fear of giving him my cold. So I called to let him know I had made it back safely and to see how he was doing. I told him I would come to see him over the weekend.
On Saturday I ventured out to the hospital. It was a sunny day and unseasonably warm; at least to me it was. When I arrived at the hospital I was not prepared for what I would see. My dad was having an exceptional day. He was laughing and joking. He had shaved and the color of his skin looked great! I sat with him most of the day. We talked about relocating to the DMV after his doctor cleared him for travel. It was really a great day and I was hopeful that God was allowing the chemo treatments to work and my dad would be just fine. I went home feeling grateful.
I was still feeling under the weather so I rested for the remainder of the weekend. Bright and early Monday morning the phone rang. I glanced at the clock and it said 8:25am. The caller ID said Pitt County Memorial Hospital and I figured it was my dad. I answered the phone. “Hello.” It was my dad’s Doctor. She asked me when was the last time I saw my dad. I told her I saw him Saturday and was surprised at how great he looked. I told her that I had returned to Philadelphia to move all of my belongings and in the process caught a cold. I told her that I didn’t want to give him my cold so I was staying away until my cold was gone. Her next statement was unexpected……
“You need to come to the hospital. There has been a change.”
“What kind of change,” I asked. She said my dad had taken a turn for the worse and his team of doctors needed to talk to me. My heart sank. I said, “ok, I’m on my way.”
When I walked into my dads hospital room there were at least 15 doctors and nurses in his room. One of the nurses was fighting with my dad to keep his oxygen mask on. He was struggling to breathe. I walked further into the room until I could see my dad clearly, and I gasped. The man in that bed was not the man I saw on Saturday. He looked like he had aged 20 years. His skin was dark and he was fighting for every breathe. There was so much commotion going on but my feet were glued to the floor. I could not move.
I continued to watch as the nurse fought with my dad. I could tell my dad wanted to say something. Finally I yelled, EVERYBODY JUST STOP!!!!! HE IS TRYING TO SAY SOMETHING!!! All movement and talking ceased immediately. My dad removed the mask. He looked the nurse square in the eyes and said, “there is nothing else you can do for me.”
My heart started racing. The tears began to well up in my eyes. And I knew I was going to cry. But I didn’t want to cry in front of my dad. I didn’t want him to see the fear I was feeling. I stepped out into the hallway and started crying. My dads Doctor came out and began to tell me that there was nothing else they could do for him. The cancer had spread throughout his body and his organs were shutting down. She said the best thing for him at this point was to transfer him to hospice care and make him as comfortable as possible. And I needed to make that decision.
I could not believe what I was hearing. I was scared and afraid and felt completely alone. I called my Aunt Rita. She came to the hospital and we hugged. She went in to see my dad. While she was talking to him, my dad and I locked eyes. He saw me crying, and the look I saw in his face will forever be etched into my memory bank. I had to make a decision and I had no idea what to do. Lots of thoughts were going through my mind. What would my dad want? Why am I in this position? What was God trying to teach me? Why did God think I could handle this? I called my dad’s sister and niece. I explained what was going on and that a decision had to be made. My aunt, without hesitation said, ‘you are there with him. You do what you feel is best.’ I did not know what to do. This was an adult decision and I did not want to be an adult. I did not want my dad to die. I wanted my mother.
After wrestling with what to do, I made the decision to stop all treatment and have my dad transferred to hospice care. For a little less than 72 hours I would sit and watch my dad die. I called my parents pastor to come to the church and pray. I kept watch. Monday night. Tuesday. Wednesday. On Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 8:15 am, I received the call that my dad had died. Sadly, it was also my brothers birthday. But here I was again, having to bury another parent.
“Come on God!!!!! What are you doing?!“