As a nurse I have watched the dying process and I have been with people when they have died. I have cared for people afterwards, washed them, prepared them for their loved ones. I have spent time with those loved ones at all parts of the process. As a nurse, I have cared for people for many weeks, from the time they knew they would die, until the end. What I am realising is, that I was less prepared for the long process of dying than I knew. Especially when that person is your own parent.
I have always been closer to my dad than my mum. She and I have a love hate relationship. I guess we are too similar to really like each other, much as we really do love and care. With dad though, I am the only daughter, and we have spent more time than I can say in discussion. Chatting, analysing and generally putting the world to rights. He has always been there to advise, to support. He has been a tower of strength through some hard times. Suddenly those roles seem to be reversed. Much as I have managed this transition, the complete role reversal is almost too much to bear.
Since last Christmas, we have pretty much known that this is the year that will be his last. The deterioration has been gradual, though at times there have been major problems which made me wonder if things would be more sudden. Instead this process is painful and it is slow. Day by day, week by week, I have watched him waste away. The big, strong man can now barely lift a light bag of shopping. His disease is bit by bit removing his strength, his mobility, his ability to get through each day.
I know he hates the person he has become. I know that he sees what I do, that he looks much older now than he is.
He can still hold a good conversation, but gradually he is losing interest in the things that were special to him. He looks around him and knows that time is short, therefore why bother with football and cricket (previous passions), especially when the teams he follows don’t appear to even try to win. In the past we discussed current affairs, politics; all of that seems less important now. He lives day to day, week to week. He knows the end is near, but not how near it is.
The only thing we can do now is to visit to help out. To encourage the grandchildren to visit. They have a baby great grandson who is a source of joy. Visits tire him, but at the same time make the struggle worthwhile.
Today I had a conversation with his hospice nurse. Suddenly, during that conversation, I realised. I was not discussing a patient. I was discussing my dad. On Monday I am meeting her at their house, to begin to discuss how we make his death the best it can be. The next few weeks will be hard.
I am really sad right now.