A few days ago, on Oct. 2 at 5:30 in the evening, I was thinking about that day and time 15 years ago when my dad passed away.
I was with him when he breathed his final breath in the house he had called his home since 1944, the house where my sisters and I called home as we were growing up.
His passing was not a total surprise as he had been on kidney dialysis since March, and one Tuesday morning when he was scheduled for his dialysis, he said he was not going.
He’d had enough.
All of us could see the struggle he had with a general weakness, especially in his knees. Moving around at age 82 was not easy.
My dad always enjoyed life whether it was raising a crop and taking care of livestock, visiting with friends and family, traveling to many parts of the world, or probably his most favorite thing – finding a good place to eat and taking his family or friends there.
Anyone with him enjoyed it because he would not tell them where he was taking them and he always paid the bill. Oh, and the food was good, too.
I was sitting with him and my mother when in March the urologist at Mayo Clinic said kidney failure is not too bad a way to die. He said it like an uncle giving advice.
You’ll just sleep away, as he told my dad.
My dad decided to have the stent put in where they attach the dialysis machine and our routine of dialysis every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday began.
But by early October he had enough and announced his decision early that morning, telling me over the phone that he was quitting dialysis.
All of us knew that the end was near, just days away.
We had to get used to the idea that his life was coming to an end. We could see his struggle and that helped us with accepting his decision.
My mother said that with dialysis, every other day was a good day.
Hospice was notified and the television room on the main floor had become his bedroom. The bathroom was next to it and that was where he would spend his final days.
I believe it was Wednesday when I told him, with tears running down my cheeks, how much I enjoyed having him as my dad and all the good memories I had going back to my earliest years.
Harvest was approaching and I thought he would be interested in hearing about our preparation for soybeans. He listened without asking any questions.
I took home a handful of freshly chopped corn silage from a local farmer who had some in the back of his pickup for my dad to smell because he had filled silos for over 50 years.
I held it under his nose and asked him if he knew what it was, thinking the smell would remind him of what he did for many falls.
Potatoes?” he asked.
When I told him it was corn silage, he did not seem that interested.
That was when I realized that in his mind, his life was over and he was ready to leave.
So, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I drove the two miles to the place I once called home to see how he was doing. My daughter was with him (these two had always been buddies) and she said he had been sleeping a lot and was restless.
I watched him toss and turn as he slept and thought I will stay here and try to comfort him as best I could.
He was breathing through his mouth and I thought his mouth had to be dry. When he opened his eye for a few seconds, I asked him if he would like a drink of water.
“Yes, please,” he said using the same two words I heard many times when he was offered a cup of coffee.
I wondered how to give a drink of water to someone lying flat on their back.
I wet a washcloth and placed it in his mouth. From the sound I could tell he was appreciating the water.
More time passed by and at 5:30 his eyes opened wide and he began gasping.
My eyes met his and I told him, “It’s okay. It’s okay.”
My daughter leaned down, putting her mouth next to his ear and told him, “You don’t have to stay. You’ve already been the best grandpa ever.”
Those were the last words he heard and in seconds it was over.
It was something I would never have wanted to do, but in the years since, I have realized how fortunate I was to be there with him in those last hours.
And after 15 years, I still get a glimpse of him when I am shaving and look in the mirror to see a few familiar features.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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