The Power of a Promise

The Power of a Promise

From A 5th Portion of Chicken Soup for the Soul

The Power of a Promise

Laurie, my daughter, has always had three constants in her life from birth through her life’s journey: her grandfather, her mother and one of her aunts.

In May of 1993, my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and his prognosis was six to seven months. Laurie had applied to five universities across Canada to attend law school. In June, she was accepted at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, her first choice.

She went over to talk to her grandpa, telling him how she wasn’t sure if she should move to Edmonton just then or if she should postpone the move for one year since he was ill. He looked her straight in the eye, shook his head no and said, “I want you to go to university in Edmonton. This is what you’ve worked for all these years. It is what you’ve always wanted for yourself and that is what I want for you.”

She made her plans to move and before she left, she went to say good-bye to him. She said, “Grandpa, I don’t want you to go anywhere while I’m gone. This can’t be the last time I will see you or else I can’t leave.” He promised her that he would not go anywhere. “I’ll be right here waiting for you when you get back,” he said. My father was always a man of his word.

Laurie moved to Edmonton and started law school, while the rest of the family dealt with my father’s illness day by day. Dad always accepted whatever life dealt him with good cheer and optimism. He was our rock. We all depended on him so very much. Whenever we had a problem we went to Dad, and he was always there to give us encouragement and advice.

His health was failing rapidly and he prepared all of us for his ultimate death. He even made the plans for his own funeral to take the burden from us in our grief.

On November 29th, Dad asked us to take him to the hospital. He had developed a serious allergic reaction to one of the drugs he was taking, unknown to us at the time. He was very weak. A terrible rash covered his body and his skin had started to peel. The next several days, the whole family spent time at the hospital so that there would always be someone keeping him company.

He was in terrible pain, yet he kept his good spirits. I specifically remember one Thursday night. He was sitting in a recliner chair between the two hospital beds. His eyes were closed, but he was aware of everything around him. Christmas music was playing on the television’s weather channel. When “Winter Wonderland” came on, he started tapping his foot to the music. Christmas was one of his favorite seasons.

I had been in constant contact with Laurie about Dad’s condition. I tried not to worry her too much because I wanted her to stay focused on her studies. She was aware of this, and in one phone conversation a few weeks earlier she had told me, “Mom, I don’t want you just to call me when it is time to come home for Grandpa’s funeral. I want to come home before that.”

On Friday morning, I mentioned this conversation to one of my dad’s doctors. He responded with, “You’d better call her today.” That morning around 11:00, my dad was put on morphine and from then on, he never spoke again.

I tried to reach Laurie to tell her to come home as soon as possible, but she was at school. I kept calling but I couldn’t reach her. I left messages asking her to phone me at the hospital as soon as she returned. By this time, we were at the hospital constantly. That evening, the night nurse informed us that Dad was in “transition,” meaning he could pass away at any time.

I was by Dad’s bedside a lot, holding his hand or rubbing his feet because this soothed him. Around 1:00 A.M., I noticed that his feet were cold and so were his legs, all the way up to his knees. His hands and arms were also cold, all the way up to his elbows. A short while later, my sister told me that she had tried to take his pulse but there didn’t seem to be one.

Around 2:30 I got called to the phone—it was Laurie. I apprised her of the situation and told her the end was near. I said to her that he probably wouldn’t live through the night. She asked me to please go back to Grandpa and tell him she would be on the first flight out in the morning, and that she would arrive in Winnipeg sometime near 10:00. She could be at the hospital between 10:30 and 11:00. I told her I didn’t think I could do that because he had suffered enough, and I didn’t want to prolong his agony, especially in his condition. She begged me. “Please, Mom, just go back and tell him what I said.”

I went to Dad’s bedside, took his hand, and told him that I’d just spoken with Laurie. I told him she was on her way back to Winnipeg on the earliest flight and that she would be at the hospital by 10:30, and that she wanted him to try to wait for her. Then I said, “Dad, if it’s too painful for you to wait, it’s okay. Laurie will understand.” There was no response. I wasn’t sure if he was even able to hear me, but then the strangest thing happened.

I went back to his bedside and took his hand. It was warm. Yet from his wrist to his elbow, it was still cold! The same was true of his feet. They were warm, but his legs from his ankles to his knees were also still cold.

Laurie arrived at 10:35. I met her at the door to prepare her because she had not seen her Grandpa since she’d left in September. He had changed much in that time, especially in the past week.

She went to his side, took his hand and let him know she was there. She talked to him for about ten minutes and said her final farewell. He was actually gripping her hand as she spoke to him. Then, without letting go of her hand, he took one deep breath in and he was gone. It was 10:50 A.M.

Dad had kept his promise. He had waited for Laurie to get back before he went anywhere.

Dianne Demarcke

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