The recurring theme in my life over the past year has been darkness and light. Nearing the climax, even the weather mirrored the sepulchral mood of the events at play: clouds no lighter than charcoal, rain pouring from the heavens in vertical sheets, wind that rattled windows and chilled the core of one's bones. It went on for days with no respite. My emotive state was also one of deep depression. My father was far too young (and undeserving) of what was happening to him; I was too young to not have in my life. The fact that I had to, in effect, give consent to hasten his demise made me sick. What a strange circumstance to be faced with - taking life away from the person who bestowed it. It was not something taken lightly. My internal psyche is still confused and repulsed by it. I just didn't want him to suffer. As he laid in his hospital bed, drifting in and out of consciousness, all I could think of was that he was already gone.
Despite reassurances from the doctor that I was making the difficult but humane (and brave) decision, I felt like human garbage…and little did I know that this would only get worse. As I visited my dad one morning (his third day in the hospital after suffering the massive stroke), I would be brought to feel lower than the sludge on Satan's hooves.
"The Clague family is heartbroken over the choices you are making."
The conversation with my aunt had started amicably enough. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, came this statement repeated several times over with increasing wrath. I should have opted for more radiation treatment, I was informed. I should be getting a second opinion, I was told. I was being selfish for not allowing him to die "comfortably" at home, it was implied. All stated while my dad laid in a vegetative state in front of us. Breathing - and listening - but unable to communicate his own thoughts and feelings. I never imagined family strife arising from our situation but the stress of current events had clearly boiled over. I am not one that takes to being provoked though and I was certainly not about to let someone whom I believe felt guilt over only seeing my dad a handful of times a year (at most) tell me what was best for the man I had spent every single day of my existence with. Prolonged suspension in the state between life (as we know it) and death (as we believe it to be) would be cruel.
Shamefully, regrettably, the first of many loud, expletive-filled arguments ensued that morning.
I did get that second opinion. And a third. And fourth.
All expressed sympathy. All reaffirmed that my father was exhibiting signs of impending death. All regrettably informed me that there was nothing they could do but keep him "comfortable" in this state. The hospital was the only place for this to happen.
The last night I spent with my dad was overnight on July 1 until dawn broke on the 2nd. I attempted to rest in the bed adjacent to his but spent more time drawing portraits of him on the whiteboard, reflecting on the amazing life this man gave me and just listening to him breathe. The skewed scenario reminded me of sharing a hotel room on one of our many trips together; I always complained about his snoring, which was epic. In Rome a few years ago, I remember taking my pillow and blanket into the bathroom in an exasperated attempt to catch a few zzzzz's on the floor because his decibel level was too much. Little did I know that someone in an adjacent apartment would be equally as loud, singing from their balcony during the wee hours of the morning. At times life is a comedy; others a tragedy. I would give anything to hear that snoring now. To listen to him breathe without pause.
I whispered my goodbyes and reassurances that morning.
My father died in the early hours of July 3, 2014. It was the first blue sky overhead Winnipeg in nearly five days.
I always pictured the death of a loved one feeling as though I was in a vehicle driving away from them…frustratingly unable to reverse or turnaround and frantically watching them become smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror.
In this instance, clearly indicative of how great a parent and best friend Brian Clague was, I view it as the passing of a baton in a race. He has given me so much. I can only take it and run. May I be half as great.