On March 21st I woke up and got ready for work. As I was getting ready to get in my car my mother in law (who lives around the corner from my husband and I) asked me to check on my father in law who was not feeling well. She said if he seemed really bad to call 911 and have him taken to the hospital.
My father in law’s health has been declining for some time, but he has been really bad the last month or so. He had a stroke 26 years ago and has not been the same since. He also has had a myriad of other health problems including COPD which is from smoking like a chimney and also working on the smoke stacks on the ships while in the Navy. But the thing is, no matter how bad, this man always bounces back. Maybe not as strong, but he always somehow manages to do it.
So here goes me thinking I’ll be in and out and on my merry way to another boring staff meeting where they drone on about stupid stuff and we all nod and smile as a day is wasted talking about stuff that could just as easily be sent in an email.
I never made it to the damn meeting.
I came in the house shouting my father in law’s name and asking how he was feeling. I think subconsciously when I first glimpsed him sitting on the couch I knew because I froze, calling his name a few more times. He did not greet me with his usual “same shit different day” when I asked how he was feeling. He did not move, he did not respond, and he had no pulse.
So I called 911 for help. They told me to get him on the floor and do CPR. I got him on the floor but on his side and could not move him to his back. Dark red blood oozed out of his mouth and that was when I started hyperventilating and freaking the hell out for real. The 911 person told me to go get a neighbor so I pounded on my neighbor’s door like a madwoman and begged him to come help me move my father in law. He came and then the paramedics came and I was doing CPR and then they took over and told me to give them a minute and leave the room.
Five minutes later they told me he was gone.
My husband was asleep and did not pick up his phone after 10 tries. I called my mother in law at work and told her to come home. She asked why and I couldn’t tell her. I didn’t want to be the one. She said she’d be home in 20 minutes. My husband and her showed up about 45 minutes later. I didn’t know what to do. There were police, ambulances, coroners, medical examiners, and a host of other people in the house. The undertakers from the local funeral home came about an hour later. We had to go to the funeral home a couple of hours after that.
I had to sit and listen to the police tell my mother in law and my husband what happened. I watched as they cried and held each other. I listened as my mother in law called my husband’s brother and sister and told them. There was screaming, crying, and plans made.
And now we are here. Ten days later and it all feels like it happened two seconds ago. The funeral was nice and he was buried in a veterans cemetery. There was a 21 gun salute which was a little frightening. My husband and his brother each received one of the shells. After the service we went to my sister in law’s house where there was more food then a hundred people could eat. People came and went. Some of my husband’s friends came. None of mine did mostly because it was a work day.
I remember feeling very sad when my parents died. I cried for weeks and months and eventually it became easier to breathe. But with my father in law I don’t feel sad so much as happy for him. He was stuck in a body that would not allow him to do all the things he wanted to do. He couldn’t use his right arm at all and his right leg just kind of dragged because it was painful for him to walk since he had broken his leg several months ago.
I bet the first thing he did was dance, jump and leap when his soul left his damaged body. Then he probably asked God to give him some projects to do because he was very good with his hands.
Can you imagine being stuck in a body that does not allow you to do the most basic things like holding something in both hands. To have to use a cane that further limits you because now you can’t even hold a cup in the good hand? To be constantly depressed because you see how hard your wife works and you can’t do anything to help her?
My father in law could be downright mean and cruel at times because the part of the brain that tells you “don’t say that” was damaged so he kind of just said whatever he wanted to. But underneath all the brashness and the sarcasm was a man who loved his family deeply. Heck he even allowed me to use power tools and taught me how to hang a picture on the wall and make sure it was level.
I will miss my father in law, but I am glad he’s free.
Save A Place For Me By Matthew West