It’s hard to return to the scene of the crime… every day. I work at the same hospital where my dad passed away.
Every morning I walk down the street where his room overlooked. I pass the parking lot that I stared on to in shock from the waiting room. And some days I find myself in the cafeteria atrium, a place where almost every table has a memory: crying with my best friends, calling my therapist and saying “you’re not going to believe this, but my dad had a heart attack,” panicking with my dad’s best friend and attorney about what the logistics of this situation looked like.
I remember the exact spot I was standing in when a colleague from food services came over to me and said, “You look casual today!”
“I’m not working. Unfortunately my dad is a patient.”
“Oh I’m sorry to hear that. What room is he in? I’ll send him up something extra special from the kitchen.” An incredibly kind gesture, but my stomach and my face dropped.
“No. No. He’s not in good shape.”
“Gosh, well I hope he feels better soon. Let me know what I can do!”
He won’t, I thought to myself, but couldn’t bring myself to say out loud.
I often pass by the Wawa where we went for “fresh air.” I walked the streets feeling as though the world was tilting on its side. I was walking upright, but the buildings and the people were swaying before me. Things were in slow motion. My gaze landed on women in work out clothes, men in suits, children with backpacks. How was it f*cking possible that people were just going about their day?! My world was STOPPED. Breaks JAMMED. Panic mode ACTIVATED. It felt totally irrational that there was a whole world outside of my dad’s hospital room.
There are certain areas where I absolutely refuse to go: his unit, practically any waiting room in the hospital, and the second floor entrance from the parking garage where I had to meet family members and friends when they arrived at the hospital.
I’ve had the misfortune of seeing my dad’s doctors around the hospital campus, ironically BOTH of them for the first time just days before my mother-in-law died. I find that as no coincidence. My dad was sending me a sign.
To have gone over a year without seeing these two men was a damn miracle. But when I did, it was painful as hell.
“I of course can’t make this decision for you,” said the tall, fluffy-haired doc who had become my saving grace, “but I can present you with the options and guide you through what each of them will mean.”
The second was a brilliant man with a heavy Asian accent who wore thin glasses and was all business. He had been the more serious of the two for the duration of the chaos. The moment that he came to tell us the timeline of my dad’s final moments, he kept his business cloak on, but peeled it back gently as he looked at my dad’s girlfriend, pointed to me, and said, “You take care of her, okay?” He quickly left the room.
I knew this hurt him, too. Maybe he was a father himself. Maybe he pictured his little girl growing up and sobbing at his bedside the way I had been for days. Maybe he came into the situation thinking he could save him, but he couldn’t.
Whatever it was, that moment of compassion killed me and meant the world to me at the same time.
To be continued…