“Is he floating right now, or walking up a staircase?”
Austin, still holding my hand, broke the silence with this question. We had both just witnessed the passing of his dad, John, and were sitting bedside with tears of sadness and joy streaming down our faces.
Two weeks ago, I posted that my friend had been diagnosed with cancer. It was in his lungs and liver and moved quickly. He died on Saturday, Sept. 16.
I had spent the night and that morning with the family. John was slightly coherent in the morning as Tracy (John’s partner) and I helped him to the bathroom and back into the hospital bed erected in the bedroom. We then took Austin, their 11 year-old son, out for breakfast and to visit a home they were having built.
We returned early in the afternoon. John was no longer talking coherently. His jaundiced eyes were not blinking. Before Tracy left to pick up his own family from the airport, we had to move John back onto the bed. He had twisted crosswise on the mattress and was muttering, “You can make it, John. John, you can make it.” To us he just said, “I’ve got to get to the door.”
John’s breathing had become apneic at this point and we knew it was a matter of only a short time before he died. Tracy left for the airport. Austin, who had said he didn’t want to see his dad dead, came into the room tearful and afraid. John’s staring, yellow eyes were alarming; when coupled with his gasping breathes, it is no wonder that Austin reached out to hold my hand. He sat in the chair next to me as I held onto to him with one hand and held John’s hand in the other.
As we sat, I explained to Austin what was happening.
“Can he see us?” asked Austin.
“Well, it’s kind of like when you are in a daze,” I said. “Your eyes are open, but you don’t really see anything. He can hear you, though. You can talk to him if you want.”
After about 10 minutes of explanations, Austin was a little less tense. We sat waiting until John stopped breathing. I leaned over to listen for a heartbeat and to listen for any air.
I told Austin that his dad was no longer with us. We settled back into the silence, held hands, and let the tears flow.