It was 2:30am. Every tree, piece of furniture and thread of carpet knew to be still. Everything knew that he was dying and they were silently reverent as the patriarch of our family waited at the gates of heaven.
I sat by his bed, my head resting next to his leg, holding his hand. I sang softly..."Morning by morning I wake up to find, the power and comfort of God's hand in mine." It was the only song I could think of and I sang it over and over again. I sang it with the hope that he would make it through the night. People were coming. Driving and flying in desperation to say goodbye to the one they called, "Dad."
Tonight was different from the previous. He was still tonight, sleeping peacefully.
Last night was hard. He thrashed around most of the night. Calling out in his sleep. Throwing his arms and legs into the air. Begging me to help him get up. Glaring at me when I denied him this request.
There is no solace in the "right thing" when it means putting your grandfather in diapers. He hated it and I silently wondered if he hated me for making the decision. At first he looked at me with pleading eyes, begging me to take him to the bathroom instead of putting on the diaper. I could not. I was not strong enough. Then he glared at me, angry. If he could speak he would have shouted, "I AM THE OPA, NOT YOU LITTLE GIRL."
I was grateful for tonight. We started the morphine regimen that morning and I knew that the end was close. I thought I was ready. I knew it was selfish to ask him for one more minute and I really thought I was ready. But I often overestimate myself.
I dozed off for a minute and awoke to the sound of gurgling. Foam poured from his mouth and he began to gag. I ran to the back room calling for my Dad. He calmly came into the room and called hospice as I did my best to wipe the foam away. He is "actively dying" they said. What do you do with that information?
We followed their instructions...elevate his head, turn his body to a 45 degree angle, clean the foam and...wait. Wait for what? For him to pass.
The "boys" went back to bed. I say "boys" with a deep affection. I am referring to my Dad, Erwin and my Uncle, Glenn. Somewhere on our journey as a family I transitioned from granddaughter to equal. I made decisions regarding Opa and his care. And rarely did the family members question my judgement.
Now it was 4am. I counted the time between breaths. His breathing was less patterned, more sporadic. And there were long pauses between his breaths. And so I counted the seconds...3,4,5...18,19,20... He wasn't breathing.
I waited. He couldn't leave yet. Winnie was coming. Rene would be here in the morning. Not yet. People need to say goodbye Opa. I waited...the breath didn't come. Fear crept in and I called out for my Dad. "Dad, DAd, DAD!" Silence. I called out for my Uncle. "Glenn, GLEnn, GLENN!" Silence.
And then a sob came from my body. The sound of it terrified me. It was loud and painful. It came from a place in my soul that I didn't even know existed. A pain filled my heart like someone had ripped it from my chest. As I sobbed, I began to beg him. I begged from the depths of me. Pleaded with him..."no, no, no, No, NO, NO. not yet. i'm not ready. i'm not ready. i thought i was ready Opa, but i'm not. Please don't leave me. Who will take care of me. Who will i talk to. Please don't leave me." Silence. I threw myself across his chest. As though this would keep him from leaving me. Silence. Deafening silence. I held onto him and swore the angels couldn't have him yet. Silence. It pressed around me like a thick fog. Silence. Stillness. I tensed ready to fight and suddenly angry...I'm not ready!
And then...he gasped and took a HUGE breath. I wept. Relief washed over me and I wept like a small child. "Double Pump" crying is what my friend calls it. The "double pump" is when you cry so hard you have to take 2 breaths between sobs.
I poured my heart out to him. I said all of the things I wanted to say for so long but never had. You have to understand that my family is not very good with "feelings." Maybe that's unique to being a Loriaux? I doubt it.
I love you, I love you, I love you. I said it as fast as I could as I pressed my lips to his hand. And then I thanked him. Thank you for being my Opa. Thank you for taking care of April and me. Thank you for loving my Oma. Thank you for loving my Dad...that went on for a long time.
There was much to thank him for. He was a loving husband for over 64 years. He was a good father and a good grandfather. Not perfect. But damn good. And I had never really thanked him properly.
And finally, the most important words I've uttered in 31 years..."Thank you, for being my friend."
Somewhere in the last year, he had become my friend. He would always be Opa, but more importantly he was my friend. And once I realized that I could let him go. Please do not mistake this with me wanting him to go.
I wanted him to stay, more than anything. I wanted him to see me married (again). I wanted him to hold my children. I wanted to talk about politics, religion, love, life, etc. But, I knew he could not stay. And though I did not want him to go, I could let him go.
And I told him that. Because I think he needed to hear it. I thought I was asking him to stay for Winnie and Rene and Frank but I'd really been asking him to stay for me. And now I could let him go.
I opened the curtains. Morning came. And I felt God's hand in mine. He was faithful, once again.
My Opa passed at 10:04 am February 14, 2011.
There was so much more to our story than the end.