Dad died six months ago, but I feel as if he died only yesterday some days.
He suffered from the ravages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease. It started in his legs and arms, making it increasingly difficult for him to walk; eventually Dad ended up using a cane, then a walker, then finally a wheelchair. Then it started affecting his breathing. He needed a respirator to breathe; his lungs became terribly weakened.
It was hard seeing Dad go from a healthy, vibrant man to one who needed constant care and/or supervision; it was worst on holidays or on the days when an ambulance would have to be summoned because Dad was having another spell with his breathing or another choking episode. Several times we thought he was going to die, it was that bad. It was extremely terrifying.
Dad suffered for two and a half years with this monster. It changed not only his life, but ours. We became his constant caregivers; we learned more in the two and a half years he had ALS than we did our entire lives. We became experts at bathing, dressing/undressing, feeding, and changing Dad and knew how to operate some of the complicated medical equipment better than some of the nurses or doctors who tended to him.
It was a life I did not wish on anybody. It was the worst two and a half years of my life.
Then came the sad day when Mom found him dead in his bed. It was on February 15th, the day after Valentine's Day, when Dad had died. He was only 44 years old. Dad left behind his wife (my mom) and three kids: myself, and my two younger brothers (ages 9 and 5; I am 13).
The funeral was five days later. Dad had a military funeral; he was in the Marines, and he wanted to have a military-style funeral, complete with a 21-gun salute. He got what he wanted. He was buried in the Veteran's cemetary five miles up the road; he wanted to be buried with honors. That was exactly what we did; it was only the last thing we could do for him.
Now we go on, without Dad. We all miss him horribly. There are days where we can function fairly well; on others, we are dong everything we can to keep it together, especially in front of visiting family or riends, or even our own neighbors. Some days we fail: we cry, we rant, we scream, we yell, asking God why He had to take our father when he still had a lot of living to do before this illness stole him away from us and eventually consumed his life.
It isn't easy, but I know with God's help (and the help of others) we will move on and eventually learn to let go of the grief that's overtaken just about every aspect of our lives.
~To be continued.~