My dad died a few days ago - on Tuesday, August 25 at 1am in the morning.
He had been struggling with ALS (Lou Gherrig's disease)--a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord--after having been diagnosed a few years back.
He gradually lost the use of his body - first, not being able to walk any more, then losing the use of his fingers/hands, and eventually being a quadriplegic.
His beloved and devoted wife Eve told me on Sunday that I should come visit right away as his health had declined sharply.
I got on a plane Monday morning, and walked into the house around 8am.
He was in his wheelchair with a non-invasive ventilator that uses a face mask to help him breath - unable to really talk much.
I cried and hugged him, telling him how much I loved him and how much I would miss him.
He wanted to respond to me, but was struggling to get out a word. We tried a different ventilator that allows him to speak more, but he wasn't getting enough air, so we had to give up on that.
Eve then gave him some medication and he went to sleep -Eve and I spent time together while he slept in the living room in his wheelchair.
We laughed together, and cried together, and talked about how much we were going to miss him.
I've never seen another human being devoted to someone in the way that Eve was to him.
Not only did she help him to transform his health when they first met over a decade ago from being a type 2 diabetic - overweight and on a number of medications - to being a healthy weight, and off all of his medications.
But throughout this whole journey with ALS she has been beside him every step of the way, with grace, humor, laughter, joy, and love.
My dad and Eve are an incredibly cute couple. They love to travel - they're constantly talking and joking with each other.
I've found that as sad as this all has been, and despite the fact that my dad was robbed of a decade or two of his golden years, I'm so incredibly inspired by his grace in dealing with this disease and by the beauty of his relationship with Eve.
It makes me want to be a better, more loving man, and to aspire to have as loving and supportive a marriage as they had.
Back to Monday...my brother arrived and the three of us continued to spend time together.
My dad's eyes lit up when my brother arrived.
I began to try to accept the fact that we may not have a fully lucid moment with my dad.
That I may not have a chance to really say good-bye.
Then at around 5pm, my dad woke up and had a surge of energy for 15 or 20 minutes.
By then I was more adjusted to reading his face and his eyes, and I could see the light in his eyes. I could feel the love and playfulness of his spirit.
The three of us were drinking a glass of Baileys Irish Cream. My dad said something that I didn't understand, but Eve understood that he said "Baileys". She said "do you want some?" and he nodded yes. He wanted to drink with us!
I started laughing and she used the small syringe that she used to give him medication in order to give him a sip of Baileys.
I couldn't believe that he was making us laugh without even being able to hardly speak a word, with no use of his body other than the faintest movement of his head and eyes.
Eve had told me that he would playfully wink at her from time to time.
I will always remember how gracefully my dad handled this entire illness. Never complaining, never resentful, always full of life and joy.
I aspire to not waste a minute of my life being resentful.
After having spent some more time together, it was time to put my dad back in bed. Eve showed us the machine that she uses to lift him from his wheelchair into bed.
She always plays the song Fly Like An Eagle when she uses the machine to lift him up a few feet off the ground to put him in bed.
Though he was experiencing a lot of pain at that point and was only able to slightly nod his head, we actually saw him bobbing his head to the music.
Again, I laughed.
I couldn't believe in the midst of it all how he was able to keep the mood light, to make us laugh.
After he was in bed we were getting ready to leave for the day. He was able to get a few words out - finally.
"I love you"
We told him that we knew how hard he was fighting and that it was okay for him to let go.
That we would take good care of Eve for him and that we would be okay.
At 1am that night, Eve called me and let me know that he had passed away.
I was so grateful to have had those precious moments to say good-bye - to see and feel and hear his spirit one last time and to hear him say "I love you" one last time.
Now that he had passed, we were able to begin the process of mourning.
Eve was able to begin to sleep again - she had stopped sleeping for four nights in a row as she was meticulously paying attention to his breathing and the respirator from minute to minute.
Literally minute to minute. If she needed to grab something from the other room, she would literally jog to the other room so that she could get back quickly to attend to my dad.
I have to reiterate that I've never seen a human being as devoted to another human being as Eve was to my dad.
She had hardly any help at the house with daily tasks and took it mostly all on herself - bathing him, feeding him, changing his clothes, moving him out of bed.
They made a decision early on that they wanted to do as much as possible together - the two of them, as a team.
Every minute of which she did with love, grace, and humor - they were truly a team.
Every step of the way - to the very end.
Good-bye, Dad. I love you more than words can say.
I will carry you in my heart forever.
Your love, acceptance, strength, wisdom, your love of conversation, curiosity, playfulness, your encouraging words, your calming voice, your kind eyes, and perseverance.
You've always said how proud you are of me and my brother. You've said it to us thousands of times over the years - always from your heart.
I want you to know that I do the same with my kids.
You continue to inspire me every day and I'm so grateful to have had you in my life for 39 years.
As I've started to get responses and condolences from people in response to this post, I realized that I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me.
Sadness - yes of course. I still get waves of sadness and crying that come over me.
The waves become less frequent over time - I was a hot mess on the first day - you should have seen me!
But I've had a lot of time and space to grieve in the last week and to prepare myself in the last couple of years leading up to this.
More than anything, I feel inspired right now by my dad and Eve. They both inspire the hell out of me.
I feel inspired by my dad's example and challenged to fully live the rest of my life. Not to let resentment creep in through the cracks, as it tends to do.
Not to make choices out of fear. Not to hold onto bitterness or ego.
To live every second of my life with joy, perseverance, hard work, and love.
To have the same light in my eyes that I saw in his in those last, beautiful moments
So if you've read this far, you can certainly feel free to share your condolences. But what I would really appreciate is if you came away from this post inspired and energized.
That's what he would want.
I wish you could have met him.
Eve told me how grateful she was for the ALS Association - they helped them to get several devices that greatly helped them.
We want to do what we can to raise money for the ALS Association in order to help others in the same struggle. Please consider a donation - it would mean the world to me.
Click on the link below and under the Team Roster section next to the name David Jordan click Donate.
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