Last night I found a quiet comfort in sitting by my Dad’s bed and watching him breathe.
He’s in hospice care in a nursing home. When I arrived I found him sleeping heavily, looking so tired and frail. Once I talked to his aide and found out he’d already eaten his supper and was doing okay I sighed with some relief.
I woke Dad enough to tell him I was there. He tells me he wants me to do that. He acknowledged my name and was glad I was with him, saying, “Cheryl… oh. Good.” But he was too tired to talk or visit. And I didn’t press him to. I wanted him to get his rest.
It was good to sit still and be near him. It was a peaceful hour or two in a crazy season of life and a stress.
It’s hard to see Dad declining. My strong, intelligent daddy who always thrived on fixing problems and taking care of us, now struggling to live. Not getting out of bed. Not eating much. So weak.
And then we are also in a season of bewilderment with my 95 year old mother-in-law who lives with us and has Alzheimer’s. She will often look around our home, where she’s lived for three years now, and wonder where she is and how she got here. She will ask us who we are and what she should be doing.
And often she will know she is confused and be so frustrated about it. She’ll say to herself, “Eunice, what’s wrong with you? Eunice, where is your brain?” And my heart goes out to her.
And in the midst of all of the heart wrenching challenges , we have the normal stuff of life. The chores and taxes and work and birthdays and church. And the special joys of two new grandchildren recently born! So much going on. So many people to pray for. So many concerns over our parents.
So there was a tender mercy in sitting still beside my daddy last night. Just sitting and watching him breathe. Just sitting and being near him as he slept.
His door was open and I noticed a couple of elderly women shuffle by with their walkers. They were going back to their rooms after playing bingo in the community room of the building. I couldn’t help hearing one of the women say, in a sweet old granny voice, “I won a prize! I won a quarter!”
She sounded so genuinely happy about it that I had to smile. It reminded me of my mom, years ago. One day as I was visiting I heard her saying, “Raymon? Raymon? Raymon?”
Dad answered, “What do you want?”
And she smiled and said, “Can I have a dollar?” I remember I thought she was so cute and it made me laugh. She had Alzheimer’s at that point and wasn’t spending any money. But she was cheerfully asking for a dollar. I wonder what she wanted to do with it…
We are in a season of confusion and stress but it helps to smile and laugh, even through tears. It’s good to notice the little things and to be thankful for them. To rejoice over the “quarters” won or found. To be grateful for the call of concern from a friend. To appreciate the nurse that is giving Dad good care.
And it’s good to be still. To be still and know that God is God. To sit quietly and watch Daddy breathe and to know that his heart belongs to Jesus. And to remind myself that the moment Daddy takes his last breath on earth, he will be breathing his first in the presence of Jesus in paradise.
There is a quiet comfort in sitting by Dad’s bed and watching him breathe.