9: Spiritual Connection

9: Spiritual Connection

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

Spiritual Connection

Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.

~Anthony Brandt

I was lucky to have a very close relationship with my parents. I was an only child, and we did everything together. On winter evenings we used to sit by the fire playing card games. Dad often read favorite books aloud while Mom and I knitted or sewed. We loved going to the theater and always had season tickets. After I got married, my career and family kept me very busy, and I sensed my parents felt somewhat abandoned, as if they had never thought about me growing up and leaving them. So we began buying theater tickets again, just for the three of us.

The years passed happily, but by the time Dad reached eighty-five he had become quite frail. He began having seizures and we started spending time in emergency rooms and doctor’s offices. Then he fell in their bathroom, hit his head on the sink, and was never the same again. Mom and I spent every day with him in the hospital, but as the days turned to weeks, we began to visit separately.

One dreadful day, I got a phone call from the hospital. “Your mother slipped on ice and fell on the way to visit your father, and now she is in the Emergency Department.” I raced to the hospital. Her hip was broken, but they had quickly put her on strong painkillers and surgery was booked for that night. The surgeon assured me she was in excellent health and would make a full recovery.

I went upstairs to Dad’s room. His nurse had already told him about Mom’s fall, and he was sitting up in bed, eyes wide with fear and confusion. “Do you blame me?” he asked, as tears spilled down his cheeks.

“No, of course I don’t!” I assured him with a hug.

“I heard the weather was bad, but I insisted she come anyway. It’s all my fault!” he cried.

“She’s not in any pain, and it could have happened any day, Dad. And Mom wouldn’t have missed a day with you anyway, you know that.” Then I told him all the reassuring details from the surgeon, and how confident he was about everything. “And soon I will be able to bring Mom to see you, so we can still all be together!” The relief on his tired old face was heartbreaking.

Mom’s surgery was completely successful and she was transferred to rehab for six weeks of therapy to ensure a full recovery. Thankfully it was in the building next door, so I was able to take her to see Dad every day. I trundled her wheelchair through basement corridors and up elevators, and their faces lit up the moment they saw each other. I kept a lot of hankies on hand!

In a strange way, those six weeks became very pleasant. The three of us laughed and chatted, Dad read the newspaper aloud and we played our card games like old times. But as Mom grew strong and healthy again, Dad slipped farther away. He became forgetful, confused and belligerent, and the staff struggled to cope with his refusal to accept his medications. He even began to forget who Mom and I were.

The doctors, who had tried so hard to keep Dad well, eventually took Mom and me aside and told us that there was nothing more they could do for him. They planned to transfer him to a separate palliative care facility, where he would receive the proper care until the end. It was the most dreadful thing to hear, but we had known for a while that his time was near. Mom was just one week away from her release date from rehab, so it wouldn’t be long before we could resume our daily visits. And since he slept most of the time by then, we hoped he wouldn’t miss us too much. I saw him whenever I could, and I telephoned his nurses twice a day. They always assured me that he was comfortable and peaceful.

The day before Mom was scheduled to go back home, I cleaned and prepared her house as instructed by her doctor. I had to remove all scatter rugs and anything she might trip over, install a raised toilet seat and various other safety items, as well as clear out the fridge and restock it with easy meals.

All the time I worked, I felt uneasy. I felt as if I was struggling, frantic, fighting for something, searching for something. I kept getting short of breath and felt the need to stop working and gasp for air. Then finally everything was done and ready for Mom. I glanced at the old hall clock, hoping I would beat the traffic going home. It was just coming up to 3:00 p.m. I wanted to call Dad’s nurse, but I was anxious to get home.

Suddenly—I breathed. Deeply. I felt as if I hadn’t taken a good deep breath in hours. As the old clock chimed three times, I sighed and slumped, exhausted.

When I got home, there were three phone messages from Dad’s nurse. I called immediately.

“Are you sitting down?” she asked.

I was.

“I am very sorry to tell you that your father passed away.”

I had been expecting and dreading that call for a while, but it was still a shock.

She went on to say, “Alan had been restless all day, getting more and more anxious and agitated, struggling and short of breath. Then suddenly he gasped, breathed in deeply, and then he was gone. I was bathing the man in the other bed, so I was right there when it happened.”

“Can you tell me what time that was?” I asked.

“Yes, it was exactly 3:00 p.m.,” the nurse answered. “I checked my watch.”

Then I made the worst phone call of my life, to my mother. I gently told her what had happened, without mentioning anything about my experience at their house.

Her first question was the same as mine: “What time was it?”

“Exactly three o’clock this afternoon.”

She didn’t say anything for a moment. Then she began hesitantly, “I hope you won’t think I am crazy, but I had just returned to my room from physiotherapy, so I knew it was three o’clock. I felt so restless and anxious. I opened the window, as I felt I couldn’t breathe. Suddenly a gust of wind blew in my face, and I immediately thought of Alan. I gasped a deep, deep breath. It felt as if your father was right there with me.”

Was Dad trying to contact both of us at that last moment of his life? Did we all share his last breath, even though we were far apart from each other? Can souls reach out to the people they love? We will never know for sure, but I do believe that somehow, spiritually, we were all together at that last moment of my father’s life.

~Julia Lucas

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