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Experiencing the Death of a Parent: My Story

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When my father became terminally ill, my siblings and I all came together to help care for him in his final days.

A Glow to Light Our Path

Snow at night

Snow at night

My Father's Illness

When my father became terminally ill, my siblings and I experienced mixed emotions as we sifted through our memories from growing up—both good and bad. This was a moment in which we children had to help each other by discussing past hurts, choosing to forgive, and actively choosing to love our parents, as they did their best to raise us.

There is so much a family member can do for a dying parent. We children wanted to forge a new experience with our dad that was satisfying and fulfilling, without any lingering sense of guilt or regret.

Our dad was stoic about his illness; he never complained. He taught us so much about the dignity of suffering and dying. He was not one to talk about his experience, so we could only ask questions and observe him as he completed his journey.

Making Precious Memories

We children knew what made our dad happy, and did all we could to bring him happiness in his final phase of life.

After a fall at home he moved to a rehab facility, where each one of us children would visit once or twice a week. He loved going out and taking excursions with us to his home community, church, or to our neighborhoods. He would look out the car window and just take everything in.

We would also take pictures of our own experiences out in the world, and then bring them to him to see. The pictures needed to be larger so he could see them better—it was easier for him to see photos on an iPad vs. a cell phone—but he loved looking at them and hearing us describe our experiences.

We took him to his doctor appointments in order to make sure that all of his concerns were addressed. Doctors loved when family members assisted him in his visits.

When he could no longer come to our homes, we planned family meals and get-togethers at his rehab center in a kitchen activity room. No matter how tired he was, he always found the strength to take in every moment of our visits. We took lots of pictures so he could look at them weeks later. He enjoyed the meals we brought to share with him, which reminded him of old times. We were careful to prepare only foods that he could eat, as we needed to be mindful of his restricted diet.

A Family Matter

We children took our caretaking responsibilities seriously. My twin brother and I jointly assumed the role of POA (power of attorney). My brother took care of the finances, and I took care of the medical concerns. We would ask for each other's consent on issues as a check-and-balance measure. We shared our thoughts and worked together concerning our father's care.

My younger sisters each had their own role in helping with his care, as well, and they consulted on decisions that involved all of us. Rather than dwelling on past hurtful statements or disagreements, we thanked and praised each other for the role each of us was taking to help care for our dad. Love heals many possible hurts!

His Breathing Changed

One day, I noticed that my dad's breathing did not sound normal. He was rattling in his throat. I kept sending messages to my siblings that this was not a good sign; this was something serious. It was time to go to the hospital.

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My mother and I were able to spend many hours with him during his short stay at the hospital. He was very content knowing someone was there with him. We brought along things to do while he was sleeping. We kept the atmosphere light, as if he were just sick with a normal illness.

On Sunday morning we all missed church, so I asked my dad if he wanted to listen to Gospel music. He said yes. We put on AOL radio and played it so he could listen. The first song that came on was, "The Joy of Heaven." He was able to move his feet to the rhythm of the music! He smiled—and soon afterward he passed away.

My siblings had been planning to visit that afternoon, but he just could not hold out long enough.

My mother and I felt very grateful and relieved to have been with him at the moment of his passing. This gave us a sense of peace. If I had not been there, his passing would have been so much harder to bear.

The Funeral

As we prepared for our dad's burial and funeral, our whole family was involved. Dad had already chosen the casket, planned the church service, and also planned who would do what. Our mother picked the funeral cards. It was not what we children wanted, but it was what she wanted. We decided that it was more important for her to do this than for us to have our way. We let her know we disagreed, but that we also saw how strongly she felt about this issue. We all chose to be happy with the outcome.

The service was reverent in terms of the devotions and message. The congregation sang his chosen songs. Each one of us children had written our respects, memories, and love for our dad, and the in-laws and grandchildren read them to the congregation.

At the last viewing, we each placed our words in his hands so that he could take them with him to the grave.

Scrapbook of Memories

We have a scrapbook of memories and pictures from our growing up years, and we have now added copies of the eulogy. We all love looking at this scrapbook together, and I believe it will help future generations understand their family history. It is just like the diaries I am now reading that were written by my great-grandfather back in the years 1924-1964. Reading these diaries have greatly helped me understand my dad so much more. He is a product of the past, and so are we.

Until We Meet Again

Because our dad was a born-again Christian, and Jesus was his Lord, we know that he is with Jesus, rejoicing and at peace. We know that leaving earth, you go through a dark tunnel with a light at the far end, to meet Jesus on His throne at the judgement seat of eternity.

Many dying Christians have witnessed this transaction experience when their souls are lifted out of their bodies. So, now is the day of Salvation. Heaven and hell are real. Be ready when it is your turn to ascend from earth, that Jesus will know you and say, "Come with me to Paradise, a place that I have prepared for you!" Ask Him to forgive you of your sin, and become Lord of your life. Tell Him that you want to do His will for the rest of your life. You will be the most blessed person within, for He gives you a peace beyond understanding, and pray the Holy Spirit to come in and be your comfort and guide. God be with you until we meet again!

Checklist for After-Death Duties

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on April 09, 2014:

We recently experienced the passing of my mother-in-law. Although she was unconscious during her final hours, the time spent there was in reflection of a life well lived. We were able to have our children communicate their love to her on the telephone, and say their good-byes. It was hard for all, but well worth the time spent.

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