Love and loss

Julie Giurgis 01 March 2018

I looked out the window for the ambulance to arrive. Ten minutes later, the ambulance pulled into the driveway. Two female paramedics stepped out and made their way to the front door where I waited to lead them to Dad and give them a brief description of what had happened.

Quietly, they started their tests. Dad was hunched over on the dining room chair, when they placed a finger pulse oximeter on the tip of his finger. One of them turned to the other with raised eyebrows saying

'Have you got a pulse?'

Dad had been sick with pneumonia and urinary tract infection for a couple of weeks. We'd been treating this with antibiotics, and he had appeared to be getting better. Yet they called for backup from their male co-workers who arrived in a second ambulance. They wheeled a stretcher into the house, gently lifting and wrapping my Dad, then transporting him to the hospital.

Walking through the entrance to the emergency room, I could feel the worries of every person waiting there. Dad's name was called, and I was escorted to a private room. The white walls were dull. It smelt of disinfectant. From outside came sounds of distant busy doctors and nurses. Ten long minutes passed.

A doctor from the trauma team entered the room. Claire. She was holding a small piece of paper in her hand. She sat down on the couch opposite me, looked down at her hands and then up at me. A small sigh escaped from her as she commenced Dad's diagnosis.

'After looking at your dad's heart and kidney counts, the numbers are quite low,' she said. 'Is he going to be OK?' I asked her, hoping for a good report.

Her voice broke as she continued. 'I'm sorry but his organs are shutting down.'

I sat in a stupor, suddenly conscious of the whooshing of doors opening and closing. 'How long has he got?'

'Between twenty-four to forty-eight hours,' she replied.

The news was so impossible that I stared dumbly at her. I paused for a moment, too shocked to find speech. Finally, and with great effort, I said 'I don't understand.'

'The nurses will update you with the results and when you can see him.' She left me, alone in the room. My world became unbearably still. Nothing could fill the void.

After a while, a nurse came in and introduced himself with a warm smile. He told me the numbers were better than when dad had first arrived. This small thread of hope started to stitch together the broken pieces of my heart.

As I entered the resuscitation room, I found Dad lying on the bed under a yellow sheet and a forced-air patient-warming system called a Bair-Hugger. I stayed with him for a few hours before Claire returned. Although there had been some improvement, the bleak diagnosis remained. On the surface I remained calm, almost unmoved by her words, but her voice was embedded in my brain.

The next day when I returned to the hospital, dad had been moved to a ward. The hospital walls felt as though they were closing in on me. The corridors were cold and sterile. I pushed myself to enter the silent room. Dad was almost comatose, no longer able to communicate, either with voice or eyes.

On the third day, Mum and I visited Dad. I felt a terrible weight on my shoulders. It was as if a giant boulder was laid on me and I couldn't straighten up or catch my breath. When Mum and I were gathered on each side of the bed, Dad reached out his hand and squeezed our hands tightly; this was his way of saying goodbye. I leaned over and whispered in Dad's ear. 'You have been the best dad, I love you so much. Be with God.'

The next day the call came from the hospital. Dad had passed away. The weight was lifted from me. I found great comfort in knowing he was no longer suffering and at peace with God.

At his funeral we played the hymn, All to Jesus I Surrender. Whenever I hear this, I experience God's beautiful peace fill my whole being. Since then this peace has not left me, but has been a strong anchor, keeping my heart at ease through the waves of grief. Despite our circumstances, the peace of Jesus does surpass all human understanding, and in the secret place where we find God we can remain peaceful in the shadow of God's wings.

'Those who dwell in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the almighty.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.'

(Ps 91:1)



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