This picture is of dad and I when I was about 4 years old. He was always there when I truly needed him the most.
I know, I haven't posted anything in 2 weeks. If you are following me on twitter, you know why it's taken me this long to post anything new... my father passed away almost two weeks ago, on July 11th. In an ironic twist, dad went downhill (and FAST!) the evening I wrote my last blog post. The words I wrote, "At this point, I just want him to stop suffering" are going to haunt me for a while. It all happened so fast, I don't think I really got a chance to process everything.
That evening, Thursday, July 9, we got a call from the convalescent hospital that his blood pressure had drop to 50 while he was doing his dialysis. It had gone up to 70-something by the end of the night, but it was still very worrisome. I fought with the nurses (with the help of my brother) to have him transported to the E.R. and do whatever they could for him. They were refusing to take him anywhere but we signed a paper saying that they HAD TO take him to the E.R. if he got critically sick so in the end they took him. They also had to find elsewhere to send him because his own doctor refused to see him and said that they should just let him die there. (I had a few choice words to say to the doctor, which I did not say but I thought... and have to go to confessions for.) Later that night, we were told his blood pressure had gone up to the 80s-90s, which made us worry less. We thought he'd be okay.
The next day, Friday, July 10th, I got a call around 10 a.m. that we had to go to the hospital immediately, that my father would not make it through the night. He was in the ICU. We had to go sign paperwork and get everything done quickly. Dad was still conscious and he was able to get a couple of things signed to make sure all loose ends were tied. We didn't tell him that he was dying; we just told him that it would be better to have things in order in case we needed to fix 'em while he was at the hospital. At that point, I still thought he was going to pull through. He was looking good and he was still up for joking around with me... though I did have to leave twice so he wouldn't see me cry. We were told to go home at 8 p.m. and I told them to contact us if anything happened.
The next morning, Saturday, July 11th, we were happy that they hadn't called us. We thought, "hey, maybe they are wrong again... like they were last month." At 8:34 a.m. I got on my cell phone... we had to go in THAT MINUTE because dad was in his final moments. Luckily we only live 10 minutes from the hospital AND my cousin had stayed overnight with us so we were able to get there right away. We got there and we could see that dad was in his final moments. It was the most heartbreaking thing I've ever gone through in the 24 years I've been alive. He couldn't breathe (his breaths were VERY labored and forced). He could understand what we were saying but he couldn't speak... or even move. Mom lost it and dad began to get agitated by the sounds of her crying. I had to ask my mom to let me stay at his side because I am able to hold in my tears a bit more. I would go to the side he was facing (his eyes half opened) and I would say "Just relax daddy, it's okay. I am not going anywhere. They're going to have to drag me away, kicking and screaming, if they want me to move." That seemed to calm him down and he began to concentrate on his breathing. Mom would again come to his side and again would start to sob, upsetting dad. I would ask her to go to his other side until she calmed down a bit and she eventually did. I stayed in dad's room the entire hour and a half we were there. My niece, Adriana, was the only other person in the room when dad was giving his final breaths. As soon as I began to see that the charts were reading "zero" I had her rush to get my mom. who'd stepped out.
I was at dad's side when he passed away. At that point, I couldn't hold in the tears anymore and I sobbed as I said my final goodbyes. I asked him to forgive me if I ever did anything that upset him, and told him that I knew he would forgive me if he could say it. I told him not to worry about mom and I, that we were going to be there for each other. I promised I would finish school (at least a B.A.) and do all he wanted me to achieve. I promised to become a woman he would be proud of. I read him Psalm 23, his favorite. I asked St. Joseph to please help dad go as peacefully as he could. I asked St. Michael Archangel (dad's patron saint) to protect him in his final moments. Mom came in literally 5 seconds before dad passed away. He gave his final breath and then went to sleep. My prayers had been answered; he went, as peacefully as possible, at 10:15 a.m... on St. Benedict of Nursia's feast day (he's a patron saint of those who are dying). Both of my Rosaries also broke at that time... which means I have no Rosary at the moment; I have to use the virtual one on my iPod touch.
I won't lie and say that I didn't fall apart at that moment; I did. I nearly fainted. I had to be rushed to the seat and given water. The entire right side of my body went numb. I was dizzy and lightheaded and barely managed to ask for rubbing alcohol or smelling salts in case I did faint. I sobbed when I was able to control my panic/anxiety attack. We stayed at the hospital until 5 p.m. when they transferred him to the morgue. My brothers and sister, along with cousins and my uncle (the eldest of the family), arrived shortly before dad was taken. Hearing my brothers break down and cry was the third hardest thing I've ever experienced (first being dad's death, second being my mom falling apart in front of my eyes). I was the last person in the family to see dad before yesterday's funeral. (Side note: before I go on, let me mention that as soon as we got home from the hospital and I sat down, I smelled one of Beckham's colognes -- the last gift I ever gave dad -- coming down on me. I knew that it was my dad's way of letting me know he was still with me since I associated that scent with dad... and because Beckham was one of dad's favorite soccer players. Mom couldn't smell the cologne... and I later couldn't smell the roses she said she smelled after reading the Bible.)
The next week was heck on earth for me. I ended up getting VERY sick (pharyngitis) and was stuck in bed for most of the week. My temperature went up to 104 on Wednesday (the 15th) and it was a miracle I didn't feel as horrible as I was. The fever was around 101-103 for the next couple of days. It was another miracle that I didn't get a panic attack, because I usually do when I get that sick. I wasn't the only one. Mom ended up getting bronchitis and nearly got pneumonia. She, along with my niece Adriana, and I were the first to get sick... and the only family members in the room when dad died. From there, one of my brothers (the one who sobbed the most) ended up getting very sick. Those who took dad's death the hardest were the ones who got very sick and were in bed for nearly a week. We're all okay now, except for the grandson of one of my cousins, who's still at the L.A. Children's Hospital with pneumonia. (btw, please pray for him. He's 6 years old but he was born blind and mute, and a bunch of other complications.) All the rest of us have are stubborn coughs that won't go away.
Yesterday was dad's funeral - the final goodbye. I was worried that I wouldn't have anyone there for me since it was during the week and everyone had plans. Luckily one of my best friends was able to change her work schedule and she came with her family. Seeing dad's coffin getting loaded out of the hearse made me cry. To think that it was the last time I would see him, physically, was painful. We had a Rosary said for him before his Mass. During the Mass, my brothers, sister, and I helped. My nephew and I (the youngest family members there) stood at either side of the casket as we Mass ended. Then we took him to his final resting place -- the San Fernando Mission Cemetery, right behind the San Fernando Mission. Thank God, and Fr. Leo, that we were able to bury him there and that the L.A. Archdiocese was able to help us with the costs. I thought it was fitting for someone who'd expressed how much he loved his faith up to his final days.
I thank God for helping me get the strength I needed to get through it all. I am grateful that my friend Eileen was there with me, with her arm around me, as dad was lowered and was buried. That was hard for me to watch and I'm just glad I didn't faint. I am also grateful to everyone who was there for us, physically and through prayer. I'm truly amazed at how much more strength I found within myself. I just hope it resurfaces when I need it.
Although I know that it isn't a final goodbye to dad, it still makes me very emotional. Y'all would be surprised with how sensitive I actually am. I feel things quite deeply. My comfort is knowing that dad is no longer suffering - which he did the last 7 years of his life due to the cancer. I know that there will be moments when I will miss him the most. I know that I'm going to be an emotional wreck if/when I get married because I won't have him to walk me down the aisle... my future husband (whoever he is) won't have the chance to ask him for his permission to marry me and my future children won't get to experience what a warm, loving, generous man their grandfather was. But I know that dad will be there with me, in spirit, through every milestone I will reach for the rest of my life. I also know that one dad we'll be reunited in heaven... especially if it's anything like that dream I had over a year ago. And, if anything, this will only bring me closer to my faith (if that's even possible.)
I get asked often if I curse God for taking my father away from me. The answer is a big NO! In fact, I still attended Mass the day after dad died and the only Mass I missed was last Sunday's when I was still quite sick. As I said in the previous entry, I am grateful for everything God has given me... including a father that, for 24 years, loved me more than words can describe. I am grateful that I was given a father that was there for me through everything. Yes, we had our disagreements and we did not have an easy relationship, but I wouldn't have traded any of those experiences for anything or anyone in the world. And, my father gave me the greatest gift I've ever received... coming back to the Church after 40+ years of being away only a day before my 24th birthday. Thank you, Lord, for giving me a man whom I loved and respected to the very end... a man who taught me so much, including to always put others before myself and to be as generous as I can be. As I promised dad, I also promise God, I will grow up (I still feel like I'm growing up) to be a woman that both my heavenly Father and my earthly father would be proud of. And with that, I am ending my blog.
I hope that I was able to express myself as well as I could. I had a ton of gushing to do on dad, but I will leave that for something else I'm working on. :) I hope to continue blogging regularly for the rest of the summer, especially now that I've got a lot of time on my hands. I do plan on going abroad soon... and I'm taking mom with me for her first trip to Europe. I'll keep y'all updated on that. :)
Thank you all for your prayers... for dad, for the family, etc. Y'all are amazing people. :) As always, thanks for reading and God Bless!