My father passed away early this morning.
My sister was with him. She and I had been taking turns staying with him at night. He went peacefully. He had been mostly unconscious for the last few days, although he seemed to come out of it a bit Friday night. I was with him then and was able to say all that I wanted to say to him then. He was not able to talk but he kept reaching for and squeezing my hand, and I know that he understood.
It was so hard watching him die, but I also know now that he was slowly dying for a long time. We had interpreted his withdrawal, his loss of interest, his fatigue, as a side effect of the chemo and as depression. But now I realize it wasn't. It was him preparing to say goodbye. At the end, he took things into his own hands. He didn't want this slow, painful, drawn out process, so he started refusing food and fluids once he got into hospice. I think the one aspect of his illness that frustrated him the most was his lack of control. He's a former surgeon, after all. He's used to being in charge. And he had it, at the end, what he wanted. A death with dignity.
It hurts. It hurts so damn much. The grief feels so paralyzing and so overwhelming and the air feels so heavy around me it is a struggle to breathe. I sent the kids home with Jamie on Saturday because I felt it was the right thing to do. I didn't want them to see my father deteriorating and I didn't want them to see my constant tears. They will be back tomorrow and we will be back together as a family. I need to be strong for them but today I can grieve so I can get on the path to healing. I know that is what my father would want.
My father's funeral will be on Thursday, in Amherst, and we will sit shiva for him through the weekend. On Monday, my whole family will be sitting shiva at our home in Connecticut, if any local friends or family will come by. I will post more details on facebook.
In the meantime, donations can be made to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, http://www.dana-farber.org/How-to-Help.aspx. They can be made in honor of my father, Frederick Hugh Levine, designated for multiple myeloma research. Donations can also be made to Abilis, http://www.abilis.us/walk/TeamProfile.aspx. This is Jo Jo and Geoffrey's Birth to Three provider, and I am chairing their annual walk this year. Every year, my father made it to the walk, except for last year, and I had hoped upon hope that this year it would happen.
But I know he will be with us in spirit, as he is with us everywhere now.
In a couple weeks, I will publish a tribute to my father on this blog. But in the meantime, I need to heal, to cry and laugh and otherwise grieve, and to be with my children.
Thank you, everyone, for everything. Thanks to friends who offered to bring meals this week to my family in Connecticut, while I was here. Thanks to those who called or emailed to show support.
Daddy, I miss you.