Steven, over at his blog, The Golden Fish, had a great idea for a transformative moment post meme.
I think of my life as a journey up a hill. Like the butterfly, I have had stages in my personal growth. Each moment gave me momentum and a reformation. Each time I accomplished something, I grew a little taller. Each time I embraced change, I felt that I learned and reconfigured myself.
Giving birth, winning my first job, gaining confidence in my teaching skills, my first published article, having my very own computer, camera, and other tools - all these things helped socially, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically. Certainly, blogging from our remote location, lakeside where the winter population turns from 5-digits to three, helped me keep in touch with the world. That has transformed the frozen winter into a technological treat.
Perhaps my most transformative moment was sitting beside my father as he lay dying.
At 12:15 they came in and repositioned him, shifting his weight to his other shoulder. The Personal Support Worker (PSW) offered me tea, coffee or juice and I asked for some tea. He brought me a tray.
I held dad’s hand, rubbed his boney shoulder, rearranged his blankets and looked at his mottled hands again. I counted his breaths at 12:50 and he was breathing 7 times every ten seconds. By 1:00 a.m. he was up to eight breaths. At 1:15 I heard Cheynes-Stokes breathing. His breathing stopped for about 10 seconds or so – it was hard to tell as time stopped for me. It wasn’t upsetting at all. I sat beside him holding my breath. When he started breathing again I was upset. I didn’t know how much longer I could take this! He needed to finally be out of pain. Mom, his parents, his cats and dogs; all were waiting. I had three cups of hot tea and made several visits to the bathroom. I fell asleep around 2:30 a.m., a long night's vigil, and woke around 4:00 as the PSW returned to the room.
The PSW had been in and checked dad. His core was still warm and it hadn’t been long ago that he had passed over. I felt as if a burden was lifted from my shoulders. No more guilt, or worrying over whether I had done enough or done the right thing. I had lobbied for weeks for more pain relief, but they didn't believe that he was in pain. I knew, at least, that he had no pain after his morphine injections.
I asked what had to happen. The doctor they would call at 7:00 a.m., there was no rush. They had rounds to finish and I decided to pack up dad’s room. I couldn’t face going back there that day. They told me I had a couple of days to clean out his things, but felt awake and I didn’t want Brian to lift anything. I carefully removed his Valentine decorations from the door and the window. I went into the bathroom and through out his toiletries and other personal items. I checked his drawers, folded up my comforter, placed the family photos into the pillowcases. It was a two-step process, walking through two passcode protected doors, one floor and a locked front door! They lock the door at night and, having gotten stuck last week, I knew it was hopeless to try and figure out how to get out before the morning staff came on. The PSW came in and washed Dad’s body while I took things down to the car.
Suddenly, I knew I was an orphan. I was the matriarch. There was no one to phone with good or bad news who was older and wiser. I was it. It was a sudden, momentous time. After a time I began to deal with it all. But I was totally shocked at the sudden burden on my shoulders, as well as the liberation of being 'the good daughter', to being able to make decisions.