It's the hardest decision I've ever had to make.
"...no, no, that's it", I softly said into my phone. "No more, just let him go...no more."
My heart felt like it suddenly contracted, beating ever more quickly as it attempted to force it's way out of my body, getting stuck in my throat. I hung up the phone in a clear daze of disbelief - wide-eyed and affixed on absolutely nothing that was before me in the conference room in which I sat.
That was it, I thought. That was it for the life of my father. That was the phone call I knew I would get, and that was it - the hardest decision I've ever made in my life.
I started this blog in 2002 - I was sixteen at the time, a mere few weeks from turning seventeen. This place has always been my refuge to pen just about anything that was my truth. A small site to bear my thoughts, expose my soul, and even have a little fun in between.
Over the years, many of the 2,000+ posts that have appeared publicly (and the many still on external drives), have come quite easy. From social topics to highly debatable opinions (some which have changed over the years), I've been able to follow through on the matters of my mind, my soul, and my heart here.
This post is obviously very different. It quite frankly is the hardest one I will write at this stage in my life. But, I know myself, and this is the only way I truly know how to handle issues of truth and depth, and even more so, it is the biggest step for me in getting through this grieving time and process.
I have a eulogy to write, as well as a remembrance piece that will be broadcasted nationally across the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Before I even attempt to wrap my mind around penning those two ultra-difficult pieces, I needed this post...to help me - as always.
As a sixteen-year-old, these were the kind of posts that NEVER crossed my mind as a possibility. But such is life.
I woke up on March 13th, 2020, and it was already unlike any other morning. I groggily rolled to the right out of my bed, planted my feet on the ground, and said a quick devotional as I occasionally do.
Thank You, Lord, for today...give me strength for my actions, give me patience for my reactions.
God gives you what he believes you can handle, right?It's a common prayer of mine to start the day. Yet, here I was on the second day in which the institution I work for had shutdown all on-campus classes and services, as well as the NCAA canceling the remainder of the Spring season. The Coronavirus already made this time all-too strange.
I took my time getting into work, dressed in track pants and a Nike sweatshirt, it was as laid back as one can be in higher education, but yet still, somewhat on par for your College Athletics professional. I expected a rather laid back day. Possibly even leaving work early for a lunch somewhere, or some kind of "Treat Yo Self" venture.
I had meetings with our staff about the upcoming weeks of working from home and handling necessary projects. Shortly after the meeting is when a strange number appeared on my phone. Assuming it was a scam, I quickly ignored it.
Then the number appeared very quickly again after the initial ignore. I now picked up.
After a short and thorough introduction, the doctor who was on the phone got straight to the point. "Your father went into shock this evening after his heart failed. We just wanted to update you that he has been revived and is on a respirator."
I've become used to these calls. It's quite sad to say, but after having tallied three calls and experiences of hearing and accepting your father "should have died" or "will be dying shortly" situations, the scars become numb to further cuts of mortality threats.
Plus, my dad was a fighter. Always has been. He knocked the grim reaper down three times already, surely, he's battling this fight into the late rounds - maybe even winning on the cards.
BTW - my dad LOVED boxing.
"Thank You, sir. Is this your direct line?" I ended the phone call with this line. I became used to asking this question, as it somehow locked a doctor into connecting with me - those are the weird tricks I picked up over the past six months.
He assured me it was and said he would call back if anything happened again. And he did.
The second call was the same. An assurance that my dad's heart failed again, and they would take further steps in the coming moments.
"Thank you, sir. Keep me posted", I said. Worry started to set over me.
And then, the third call came. And that feeling set in. I quickly grabbed my phone and headed for a quiet space, away from my colleagues, who were sprinkled about our suddenly empty athletic facility. I took the call. Heard most of what the doctor presented to me, and then it came...
"I'm sorry to say this, but we're going to be doing this all day. We have two teams working on him as we speak, the situation is VERY grave."
I quickly assessed the entire day to grasp how real this was. How everything came down to this moment, and even the fact that this fell into my lap - not my mother's, who has been and would've been in no way able to handle this situation or make this decision.
God gives you what he believes you can handle, right?
I asked about his situation, which suddenly was met with a long list of items my father was suffering from, including now several broken ribs from the continued CPR being applied to his frail body during the day.
I suddenly cut the doctor off, who to his credit, exhibited as great a manner in language and comfort that an individual commonly in these situations could provide in explaining the options. Again, not that I heard them, anyway.
"Just let him go. Please. Don't hurt him anymore. Just...let him go."
Silence surveyed the moment for a few seconds, but what felt like hours.
"Sir, can you give me a call when he has gone home."
The doctor agreed.
The final call came, while I was in my car on my way to pick up my son from daycare.
2:02 pm EST, my father was on his way home.
I always wondered how my mom would take the news of my father's passing. In honesty, we all knew it was inevitable, we just wished my father would be able to come home, just one more time.
I struggled with coming up with the language to tell her, and how it would be presented to her. As I picked up my son, my phone was vibrating constantly with calls. I anticipated it being the hospital, and my attitude was just that - there is nothing else to say at this moment.
But, it was my mother. Crying. Pleading. Call her. And I did.
She was distraught but thankful my dad didn't have to suffer. And while I wrestled with the decision I made just a mere few minutes ago, I now wondered how it would be received that I essentially made the call to not give my father one last fight.
My mother quickly stopped me, and let me know it was the right call. It very much lifted much stress I had been carrying in those after-moments.
Then I was hit with a sharp right hook in the aftermath as I picked up my son. My father-in-law was in town, and my son's teacher knew of this. She presumed I was picking up Ace early to see "Papa" early.
"I bet you can't wait to see Grandpa!" she excitedly said to him. "Pah-Pah!", he replied, jumping around in only the way 20-month-olds can express their excitement.
Just mere minutes after hearing my father left earth, this moment made my heart further crumble. While his other Grandfather is amazing, my son will never have that moment of pure child-like excitement to see my dad.
But the hard part was to still come - visiting the hospital. Confirming the death.
I'll spare the details at this point, as some of it is rather unmemorable, but I will say and relay this - there is no other image that has psychologically messed with me more in my life than the afternoon of March 13th, 2020.
Walking into his hospital room with tens of disposable gloves thrown around the room, the area obviously showing the morning-to-afternoon experience of distress and chaos in a clearly obvious fashion, topped off by seeing a covered body in the bed, expected to be that of the man I looked to for my entire life.
He fought to the end. And if you knew him, he danced, joked, and smiled his way through it. And that to me, is what makes him so special.And then, of course, it was the moment - unzipping a body bag to unveil my father's lifeless body, more so, the cold unnerving look on his face.
Those moments were tough. And I'm sure the days leading up to his funeral and burial will provide a few more.
My mother shared with me just today that she always wanted him to go first. She worried if she were to die, what would become of my dad. It was a very deep and powerful comment to make - one that many of us have thought about but would never admit or commit to saying aloud.
But, it helped start the inward look I think for both of us. Possibly, at this point for everyone.
For me, I've had an array of emotions. Anger. Sadness. Happiness. Laughter. Questions. Just lots of Pondering...of course.
In some ways, relief. This journey of my dad's decline and battle with dementia started five years ago, and every step of the way has been difficult. It has been trying. I've learned more about myself, about healthcare, about managing stress, and about patience than at any time in my life.
It's been even harder as just recently my family has lost two uncles (a brother for my mother and father each), a very close cousin just last week, and of course, now my father.
Yet, as I pen this, I have been more in the mode of remembering my dad. And at times, it does a get a bit strong. His aura is everywhere, from my pulling up in the driveway of my parent's home and noticing the things he fixed or would work on, to simple things I notice I would do, or say, or even how I would lay on the couch, that is ripped directly from his playbook.
I haven't cried. I let a lot of that sadness out a while ago when it was inevitable that I would be here at this very moment, at some point soon (A Few Hours to Live II).
However, as you can imagine, there is a piece that has ultimately perished with my dad. Currently, I cannot fathom listening to Jimmy Cliff. My father's favorite artist, and one of mine, too - naturally, because of my father. Those are the little things...
I get super sad when I realize my son will never know my father, surely not the guy I knew, or even the super kind and innocent second version who battled dementia in the end.
I feel for my mother, who must now navigate life without her best friend after spending the last 40+ years doing everything together. And that's no hyperbole. The night my father was admitted to the hospital in October, was the first night in decades my mother spent without my father. They literally did EVERYTHING together.
And finally, as I continue to feel a bit better after getting affirmation from many that it was the right call, it still doesn't seem to ease up on my soul - maybe just in a different way, and from a different perspective. I know for a fact that my father, as adventurous and as full of life as he was, would have hated to live life barely hanging on.
My father overcame leaving his home at sixteen. He adventured through the islands, making his way to the United States. He overcame a lack of early education. He overcame immigration. He overcame institutional racism. He overcame poverty. He overcame self-education and trade. He overcame the boundaries for a better life. He overcame the limits of generational wealth. He overcame negativity and jealousy. He overcame so much of what he shouldn't have been able to do.
He fought to the end. And if you knew him, he danced, joked, and smiled his way through it. And that to me, is what makes him so special.
I'm starting to come around on the depth in making the call. To appreciate it. To get a hold of it. Maybe one day, to own it. Whatever stages there are in this process, I'm beginning to learn to live with the fact that I made the call to send my father home.
I don't think it will EVER leave me, but strangely, I don't think I ever want it to.
I love you Dad, always. And forever.