TITLE: Chapter 2 Up Close and Personal
By Crystal Beavin
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The early days of my childhood was not the only time I've been fearful about my father's health. After his third heart attack he had by-pass surgery and that changed everything. He had many years after that of feeling great and living a life of vitality. But being a heavy smoker since he was fourteen made it a hard habit to break, even after his life-threatening circumstances. This eventually took a toll on his health and it led to other physical problems. These problems got worse as time went on.
Living away from my family was never an easy thing for me. We moved to Texas a few years after getting married, moving 1,500 miles from our families making the phone call I received one day difficult to deal with. It was my sister-in-law calling me with the bad news that my father had a brain tumor and was not expected to live much longer. I knew my dad went to the doctors recently because of some trouble with his eyesight, but I never expected to hear these words.
I immediately called my husband at work and told him the news. The next day we packed up the car and was on our way to Maryland. We were able to get there in record time despite the heavy traffic we expected since it was Memorial Day weekend. We had to get there as quickly as possible. Not just because my dad was so sick, but because my husband had to fly back to Texas so that he could go back to work on Monday morning.
When we arrived at my parent's home we were surprised to find all my family there. My brothers and sister and their families greeted us with hugs and kisses. It has been a while since we visted everyone so it was wonderful to see them. My parents were glad to see us and to my surprise, my dad looked good despite the situation.
For the first week we enjoyed visiting our family. Dad was up and walking around, playing with my children and everything seemed normal. My niece, who worked in real estate at that time, was able to find us a beautiful historic house in the Chesapeake Bay area to rent while we were there. It was about 25 minutes from my parents home, but it made things easier being able to take my children to the rented house in the evening after spending the day with my parents. It was much easier when my husband came to be with us every Friday night through Sunday night.
But, after that first week my dad's health started to decline quickly. Never once did he complain about his situation, but instead he lived his last days with grace and dignity. Hospice started coming everyday and before long my dad was bedridden to a hospital bed that was set up for him in their dining room. Even though I admired the dedication and expertise of the hospice nurses I was struggling with all the medication they were giving my father. I spoke about this with my mother who assured me that my father asked for the medicine because he did not want to be in pain. I understood his feelings about that, but it was still difficult for me to watch him be overmedicated.
Hospice gave my family a small book to read about the process of death. According to this book and the hospice nurses, my dad was in the final stages of death. Driving back to the rental house that night I called my husband on the cellphone to let him know the condition of my father. He planned to fly to Maryland in two days for his normal weekend visit. I asked him to come earlier if he could because I wasn't sure if my dad would be alive for the weekend. After arriving at the rental house and trying to get my children settled for the night I felt overwhelmed and wanted to go back to my parent's house.
My mother understood why I wanted to come back and I believe she felt better by having us there. I never expected to see my two brothers and my sister when I arrived, especially since it was already late in the evening. My oldest brother, who lived out of state, was suppose to arrive the next day. Since my parents lived in a small apartment my sister-in-law offered to have my two older daughters spend the night with her. My son and baby girl would stay with me.
My daughter slept on my mother's bed and my son slept on the living room floor in a bed that we made for him with blankets. My two brothers slept on cots at the foot of my dad's bed while my sister, mom and I sat with my dad. My sister read the Psalms to my dad, something she enjoyed doing knowing that it was one of his favorite books of the Bible.
My husband called me around 3 a.m. that morning to let me know that he was at the train station about five minutes from my parent's house. I picked him up and was so relieved that he was able to make it to Maryland so quickly. We came back to my parent's house and I made him a bed on my mom's recliner.
Two hours later I walked back to my mom's bedroom to check on my daughter. Just then I heard my mom yell. Within seconds we encircled my dad's bed. My mother noticed that his breathing stopped and he was slipping away. With his wife and four of his children by his side my father left this world and entered into the presense of God. With all of us holding his hands, stroking his hair and saying our goodbyes, we were left with a great sense of loss. After only three weeks after his diagnosis of a brain tumor and only 25% of his heart left, my father's fight for his life had ended. But somehow through the heartache we knew God loved us and was with us.
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