Posts Tagged ‘lifewithparkinsons’

Or as I like to call it Dad’s 10 Days In Heaven On Earth. I’ve been compiling a photo album from my instagram posts on Dad’s Parkinson’s journey. While it was a 14 year journey the last 16 months leading up to his death were the most impactful. I’ve decided to dissect those days a little more, especially those last 10 days.

My Dad was a photographer and a journalist. While he vocation was chemistry, his avocation was storytelling. As we went through boxes of memorabilia after his death, it really became apparent that he loved telling stories since he was born. He learned at an early age to keep newspaper articles and to write notes on the back of photos. He wanted to keep the memories alive and fresh.

He started journaling special events in his live, especially his trips. He used a theme in his title; “Ten Days.” The first one I remember was when we visited my brother and his wife in the Peace Corps. It was titled, “10 Days in Guatemala.” He didn’t always travel for 10 days, but he always got away with sharing the phrase. He and mom traveled to visit my family while we lived across the ocean. He titled the journal “10 Days in Hawaii minus 1.” This is why I think it’s so appropriate that those finals days between when the hospice nurse said Dad had only a few days left to when he passed was 10 days. Even in his death he left us with a great story title, “The Last 10 Days.”

So here is where I begin this story. It starts with this picture and this first entry from June 6th.

Priorities. Jeopardy and chocolate for dinner, not much food or fluid intake today. And Mom showed me this book that a friend, who recently lost her husband, gave her to read. Heavy stuff but good to read as we head toward the inevitable. #lifewithparkinsons #schlewitzmindset #weinkaufspring19

I got the call Thursday afternoon. Mom was in distress. She came home from her sub job for the school district, where she was usually assigned to a student with special needs, to hear the hospice nurse say that Dad only had a few days left. She asked me to contact my siblings. She needed to know what to do about my sister Robyn. She needed to get Robyn to Dad before it was too late.

My hubs dropped everything to help me get up to see Mom and Dad. As I contacted the sibs I packed my bag. I had a ton of questions going through my mind. How long was I going to be there? What should I bring? This hospice process can be quick or move into days or weeks or even months. The past year was filled with many moments where Dad was winding down but ended up rallying. Is this another rally point? What would I see when I got to him? It had been a week. Would he still be able to speak?

By the time I got there the caregiver had finished her shift. It was just Mom with Dad. He had a sponge bath and a dry shampoo. He was watching the news. He wasn’t very hungry, but wanted a bite of chocolate. These days he could have icecream and pie for every meal if it meant that he was eating. Chocolate was par for the course. He greeted me with a smile and said, “Hey, you came.” I said, “Yes Dad. I’m here to stay for a while,” and smiled back. He didn’t have enough strength to wrap his arms around me so I just leaned in and rested my head on his shoulder for a bit.

Later that evening during one of Dad’s naps Mom shared that she and Dad had a good cry after the caregiver left. The realization that death was iminent came to rest hard on both of them. I can’t imagine how scared Dad was. He was such a planner. He even scheduled shower time for the family reunions as our family had tripled in size. My Dad didn’t know what life would be like after death. We read about heaven. We heard it preached. But when it comes down to it we don’t know the physical state of the after life. I sat there wondering how to respond, how to encourage someone who would come face to face with it in 10 days.

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My last post was in 2014. A lot has happened since then. We moved back from the islands. It was mostly to be back near our family. At that time my Dad was in year 11 of his Parkinson’s journey and I found it difficult to navigate supporting my mom through phone calls and the occasional visit to the Mainland.

Two months ago today my dad passed. I’m so thankful that I was there. He was literally surrounded by family. How we all ended up around his death bed is a story of hope and forgiveness. I’m still amazed by that moment. Experiencing my Dad’s peaceful last breath of life as our voices called out our love to him is a memory I will never forget.

Three weeks later my sister died. She was a big part of the hope and forgiveness story. She was estranged from us. Choices she made throughout her life kept her at a distance. Dad’s hope to see her one last time won over the pride and she arrived for those last 10 days. Stories came out from her last few months before arriving at the house. She almost died twice.When i picked her up from the train station she was recovering from a recent dog bite to the face. She was fighting fatigue and sickness her entire visit but was still present with all of us. Her last words to me when we dropped her back off at the train station were the same words we shared as Dad was dying, “No matter what happens it’s going to be okay.” We continued to text over the next few weeks. I knew something was wrong when I had texted her an old picture of us by the oak tree and didn’t get a response. Years of abuse took a toll and her body finally gave out. She coded on a lifeflight to the hospital. All the years of not knowing if my sister were alive have faded as I hold on to those last days with her; those last days with her making our family whole.

The late Toni Morrison used to ask herself, “What do I have to do that is so important that I would die if I didn’t do it?” I’m asking myself the same thing. The deaths of my father and sister have made it clear that life is too short to not follow a dream. So I’m stepping away from paid ministry life and into the life of a student. Same Dreamer. New Chapter.

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