The End
Mom and I took care of Daddy from June 3-13. I'd lift him from his hospital bed and she'd change him and feed him, 24 hours a day. We ran a video marathon of his favorite cowboy movies and slept on the living room couch and loveseat. During this time I rode my bicycle a lot. It was my therapy because it was the only time I could leave the living room. I also enjoyed wheeling around on Daddy's unused wheelchair. They're a lot of fun if you don't have to use them.

The father of Jerry Naas, a high school classmate, died on June 3rd, so I surprised him at his father's funeral. I hadn't seen Jerry in 12 years so this was as good a reunion as any. It was also an opportunity for me to rehearse.

On June 5th, Daddy became unresponsive. Mom was big into praying the Rosary, so my sister and mother and I kneeled by the bed and prayed over Daddy for about an hour. By the time Uncle Lawrence had arrived Daddy recovered and became very active, needing to be lifted out of his bed every twenty minutes until after 4am. Lawrence sat towards the back of the living room, talking all the while we were trying to sleep between changes. We were so tired we could hardly move, and unwilling to ask Lawrence to leave. Although extremely supportive, and much loved, he was never very sensitive in times like this. The next day, I picked up Daddy's older sister Marcella to visit(top photo).

The nurse from Hospice visited one day and washed Daddy's hair. I've never seen him without greasy hair and it was thick and fluffy, especially for a man of nearly 66 years. We have good hair genes in the family. I'd rarely touched him in my life...we weren't a touchy family. When I lifted him from his bed I had to grab his forearm, and when I did it surprised me. It felt just like my own. I still think of him when I hold my forearm.

The destiny of his soul disturbed me more than his inevitable exit. He'd professed being Catholic his whole life, but rarely showed any faith. I was often shocked by how little he had. I could not get him to talk about it at any time when he was alive and well, even when I had deeper questions about the destiny of my own soul, and what God's word meant. But that time before his death, one day, when he and I were alone in the room, I gathered up my courage and asked Daddy if he knew he was a sinner and accepted Jesus' payment for his sins, and accepted him as his savior. He fumbled with the words, and then replied,"Of course". After that, I felt peace.

Was it you I cried for, or you who made me cry?...>>>
Miimii (wife) flew in on the weekend of June 9-10, and helped with caregiving for two days. When she saw Daddy she broke, and we had to go for a drive so she could collect herself. The day she flew back to Virginia, we bought Daddy a Father's Day ring. It was unlikely he'd live to see Father's day, but I didn't want him to be the only unappreciated father. We'd never bought him much in his life that I could remember, although in 1986 I made him a birthday card with crayon and stuck a stick of gum in it (he wrote me back,"It was delicious"). Whether Darrel or Brenda agreed, I told Miimii we'd give it to him together, his children, a silver ring which said,'Daddy'. He couldn't speak, but occasionally raised his hand and stared at it. I insisted he be buried with it.

He never really spoke during that weekend, except for short, incomplete sentences. Mom would hold photo albums in front of him and he'd light up a little as she flipped the pages. Uncle Lawrence would say Daddy had no idea what was going on around him, but I disagree. During a Gene Autry film, Miimii and I were sitting with him, a slow song started to play, and Dad nearly sat up out of the bed, saying loudly, vigorously,"You're the Only Star in My Blue Heaven", before Gene even began singing. I remember that every time I hear that song. Daddy also struggled really hard to reach out and hold Father John's hand when John visited. He really liked Father John, Pastor of Corpus Christi Church, despite John's beard (Daddy despised facial hair).

Hours after Miimii flew out, the Hospice lady came over to check Daddy. She told us to stop food and water because he'd choke to death if we didn't. We'd have to starve him to death. Afterwards I took it upon myself to give the maximum dose of morphine to kill the pain. Our potent morphine was given by eye-dropper through the lining in the mouth--no swallowing required. Every two hours, at the sound of my watch alarm, I'd medicate him and tell stories of cutting his grass and mowing down his shrubs. One time I opened the bottle too fast and it splashed on my face making my bottom lip fall asleep (then it was up all night).
I often talked to Daddy alone, and when Brenda came by, she'd talk baby-talk to him, which greatly upset me. I'd tell her,"He's still alive, and he still knows what you're saying! He's not a baby! Stop insulting him!" I wanted her to speak to her father who was lying in front of her.

I felt guilty at times when we were alone, because Daddy would grunt and try to raise his arms, indicating he needed assistance, but I wouldn't react immediately--I'd pause and hope he'd stop. Mom and I were so tired. I'd sit in the recliner next to his bed and see his shallow breathing, mouth and eyes open all the time, up *pause* down *pause* and sometimes thought it had stopped. But then it would start again. I just wanted it to be over. I wanted to tear that Band-Aid off of my heart quickly and see what was inside. It was too painful to watch.

The fragile man who held me in his was the hand I held when last we said goodbye...>>> Daddy moved a little when Father John visited, but other than that, he just stared. He lost so much weight he looked like holocaust survivor. He spoke his last known word on June 11, to my mother while I was out cycling, in very broken English, "V-i-o-l-a"...her name.

We'd called his brother, Donald, telling him Daddy was very bad, but Donald rarely visited. On June 12, Donald showed up with his wife, Betty, and when she saw Daddy she was so shocked. That was the most common reaction--"Oh My God!" I smirked at her and said,"We don't notice it much anymore". Then the air conditioning stopped working. Donald, Lawrence, and I piled into Donald's Toyota Camry and rushed to Kuester's Hardware for fuses but as I recall, that didn't work. I made some quick calls to Lappe Heating & A/C whose owner knew Daddy. I told them we needed immediate service. It was summer in Indiana and we had a dying man running a high temperature. They responded immediately.

That night his temperature rose rapidly. Mom gave him Tylenol but it didn't work. His breathing became heavy. We called my brother, Darrel, who hurried the 3 1/2 hour drive from Indianapolis, and Uncles Lawrence and Donald too. They, along with Brenda, Mom and me, and Father John were together, a family, at last.

Daddy's breathing became slower and deeper, gasping, like a baby bird begging for something to eat, but not able to reach. He fought to lift the weight of death off his chest, but it grew heavier by the minute. Father John quietly urged him,"Let go Richard, let go", but he fought hard to breathe. My mother, sister, and I kneeled at the head of the bed, and my brother was on the other side. Uncle Donald and wife Betty were at the foot, and Lawrence, opposite me, at the head with Father John. Daddy gasped, slower and deeper, for over an hour and then--stopped.

Father John closed Daddy's eyes which had been open for days. I turned off my alarm, my morphine reminder.
Daddy wouldn't feel pain anymore--3:16 am, June 13, 1996. Mom whispered,"Goodbye Daddy".
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June 13, 1996