Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Day 923: Greater than through love and support!

I go back to work tomorrow. This blog was started for me to hold me accountable and one of the by products if it is that others may see my journey and something may come from it for them. I had to remember that as I was thinking about this entry. I have not been sleeping real well since I got home. I know this may be normal, but I need to do this for me. I need to write down what is inside and get it down. The last 10 days have just been so intense and while I know in my mind that it will take more time, I feel like I want to do it all right now. Today in fact is the first time I feel like I can breathe. Monday, my first day back home, I ran around doing errands, laundry..staying busy. Yesterday  was a little better, while I have done some of that, I have actually read some lovely cards that came, cried a little, and just..well..slowed down. But I have this need, this need to write down the experience...this amazing gift that has come to everything else, it is a day at a time.

Last week, it seems like a year ago, we were called to Rex...Daddy had been in and out of the emergency room with so much pain all week..but he had been moved to the ICU..ICU number 11. Leanne called and off I went. When I got there he was on oxygen and it was not good. But as we talked, my siser and I, we had been here before, or so it felt. For 10 years, daddy had been so much. We often called him the teflon man...he had lived for years with renal bypasses, open heart surgery, had had diabetes since 1981, and had had lung skin, and esophageal cancer. At points along the way the question came "what is enough".."how much can one man suffer"...but I always got back the answer that there was business that needed addressing and there was something...that was something my daddy and God had to deal with...and for me, for all of us, it was to be there.

So, here we were again, Daddy in the ICU at Rex. But we knew..we knew this time it was different. His kidneys were shutting down, he had congenital heart failure, and the area that had been radiated in his esophagus was showing new growth in the cancer and it was "hot". He was faced with no way out with this, and Leanne and I sat, she on one side of him and me on the other and we held his hands. I will carry that memory for the rest of my life as one of the most precious memories I will ever have. Leanne and I have had our moments, but there in that room, there was such love...and we were there for Daddy. And we both told our daddy that it was ok for him to let go...that we wanted him to be out of pain, and he heard us. All of a sudden, Leanne began, not to read, not even to recite, but to speak was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. She was passionate, sincere, but above all else, she was speaking love..and it was simply beautiful. Daddy held my hand with pressure....and he heard every word. It was amazing..and I will never ever forget hearing ("for those with ears..let them hear")....and from her came such true love. Through her came such peace that night and it set the tone for the days ahead.

It was not meant that Daddy would pass that night. He was going home. That was always his be in his own house and he HATED not being in his own house. He has more to do. the next day, we did not know what to do and Drs...God love them..they are geared to heal...they are NOT geared to tell you that there is nothing more...that there is a time to stop. We, however, knew it, but did not know what to do. I had such a long history with Lower Cape Fear Hospice and brought it up and Leanne was ready to talk about it to...but we still did not know what to do or how to have the conversation with the hospital, the care providers. It was maddening. Then came this amazing Paliative Nurse..her name is Camille Lamb and I will be grateful to her the rest of my life. This SOUL..I cannot even qualify her by sex or status as her presence preceeded her the minute she sat down and began to talk to us. She was amazing. Over those harry potter glasses, her eyes radiated comfort and there was just a sense of trust that came from her. She told us that on rounds they had the discussion that Daddy should begin to have paliative care..but now it was time for us to discuss it.

Camille was amazing and walked us through what it meant, how to talk about it and then, she said we needed to talk to Daddy about it..and that she would do it. She asked if we wanted to go with her and I went...and I found myself asking my brother in law to go with be there with me..but more importantly to be with there with Daddy. See, for months...or longer, as I have lived in Wilmington, it was my sister and my brother in law who came to my father's house and crushed my daddy's medicine's and made sure that his feed tube and all that his needs were met. It was my brother in law who did so much for my daddy..and I am so grateful that several months ago, away from all of this, he had called me and I was able to thank him for all that he did. Buddy was also my daddy's son..and for me, to go to that room to talk to Daddy about this with Buddy was terrifying, but less so, because I was going in with someone I knew cared about Daddy so very much.

Camille woke daddy, and made sure he understood what was going on. While the details are not as important, what I witnessed and expereinced in that time, with that woman facilitiating that converstaion was nothing short of actually touching compassion and being wrapped in unconditional concern and care. She made sure that Daddy was fully aware and we were all involved and able to share how deeply we loved him. Daddy had already prepared for this with a do not resistate and other decisions about his care, now it was time to stop treatments and just make him as comfortable as possible, remove pain as an obstacle, get him home and spend our time together.  We gathered together and cried, but we also shared how very deeply we loved each other and we made our commitments to seeing this through. Camille got Wake County Hospice to come meet with us and we began the next phase to honor Daddy's wish to be at home till the very end.

Hospice was the next gift. Volunteering, knowing hospice here, and visiting so many in hospice care you get a sense of what is happening, but sitting in that room with my sister and my father's wife and hearing what they can do and will is nothing short of phenomenal. But the most important thing came out of this: Daddy could go home. That was the bottom line. The CNA's, the RN who would oversee, the details and the 24 hour call in case of need, and being able to keep him out of pain. It was just so powerful. We, however, would need to be there..and that was something that we just did not know about and it was frightening, but we were committed to.

I sat that whole weekend with Daddy in the hospital as we waited for Monday to come and him to go home. We watched Church together on Sunday morning, the races on Sunday afternoon, meet the press and MSNBC news programs. But we talked when he was able and he told me of what he wanted...all of it was for us to take care of each other.

Daddy got home and I went back to Wilmington. We thought the plan would be that Leanne and Buddy and Brenda would take the week and I would come up on the weekends, but the next day I was called from office. Daddy said to come. They all said to come. It was going downhill fast. Something inside me knew that this would be the last time I would make this trip to see Daddy. I stopped by the house and got somethings before I hit the road this time and, like in all my trips, I stared deeply into the clouds that decorate the sky each and every time I travel I-40. No radio on, just the clouds and the countryside.

I arrived at the house and went in the room. Daddy said "it's tough".. and I knew. He told me to stay with him. That he was proud of me, that he loved me. I was able to do the same. I was able to thank him for being my daddy. and then one after the other, people came in. Not one person came in where Daddy was not telling them how to take care, how he felt, some were getting specific instructions, some were getting some hopes...but all were getting love and all were told that he, my daddy, was going to be ok. It was amazing to witness and to be there with him.

We were shown how to administer the morphine and the medicine for his anxiety. Every two hours. Jenny Johnson, the RN from Hospice of wake county was another beautiful soul as was Tonya, the CNA. They walked us through and helped us know what the signs were, what his needs were, but most imporantly, they reassured us that we were doing the right things.

We decided I would take the night shift and leanne would come in the morning. We just did not know how long it would be. Daddy was ready. He has said so. He was at Peace. But his body was not willing just yet to let him go. So, at night, I pulled the recliner next the hospital bed that was in his room and stretched out and lay beside him. I could hear his breathing and for two nights, he would try and get up and every once and a while, so I took to holding his hand so that if he moved, it would wake me. Every two hours, my little alarm on the phone went off and I gave him his medicine and whenever he would try and get up, I would just be there to help him lie back down and be at rest. What was so amazing about holding his hand was that he had the hands of his mother. I can still feel her hands and when I grabbed his, they were so similar. I told him this and he liked it very much. He loved the idea of seeing her again and of seeing his Daddy too. Much comfort came from this and we talked about memories and things that gave us both joy. After he was not longer congent, he would raise his hand. I knew immediately what he was doing because I had seen that ever motion over and over when I was little. Daddy was motioning his bid on the market. He was buying. I thought as I watched him that he must be marching through his life, being able to see it before he left. But he would raise that hand and I would gently take it and lay it down and say "you got it daddy" and he would drift off.

Leanne did the same vigil all day during the day. All of it seemed like forever...the breathing, the medicine, the crying, the praying, the love that surrounded that room. Jenny told us that he was at peace...and she knew that becuase he had gotten all of his business done the days before. Now it was just time. She was a wise and beautiful soul. and so it went.

And then, as I was preparing for another day, and as I sat there in the room with Buddy and looked up and the short, shallow breath was still happening. I began to type again and I heard Buddy say "it stopped". I looked up at Daddy and his chest was not moving. It was completely quiet. He had left. Just that quietly. His long, hard journey had ended.

I got up and went over, stroked his hair, and buddy went to go inform the nurses. Daddy made me promise a few things about the way he would be after he left and I went to getting it done. I placed his Bible that I had left by his side the whole time in his hands, combed his hair, and placed a wooden cross I had placed around his neck when he was in the hospital for his heart a long time ago between his fingers, fixed his covers, took out all the medicinces and mess that looked like a hospital room that covered the fact that this was his bedroom, fufilled his requests in addition and then people came in.
It was exactly 2:00 when it happened.

For me I stayed as busy as I could. It just seemed surreal. The funeral home came and Buddy and I carried my daddy out of his house. Again, it seemed only right.

I choose his grey suit, a starched white shirt with his initials, his red striped tie, belt, shorts and socks...everyone liked what i choose. This was my daddy. Leanne got his barber to come.

the last two acts for me for him during all this was to close his casket at the end of the visitation. Again, I did this with Buddy. It was then that I lost was so real. But, It did not last long enough. I wanted to cry for days, and yet it stipped in minutes. For another time.

Then, at his funeral, I got to read scripture..the good news for my daddy..for my family...I also got to say what a good man he was and how proud I am of my sister and of my brother in law. This was gift.

So much happened in such a short time and while I have left a lot out, I needed to get some of this out..somehow it makes it more real. and while there are "details" that linger...that was so much of what happened. I never in my life dreamed I would be here, for a lot of reasons. But no matter what, what was and is so powerful is that my Daddy had a good death. All the pain, all the issues, all the suffering...he was able to end in peace and love and surrounded by so much good and leave it in goodness.

For me, there was a lot of intensity in all this. I just have to continue a day at a time feeling what I am feeling and balancing the gratitude for having experienced all this with the pain that also was involved in this as well.

But, there is a list as long as I can write and it will be attended to of thanks....from the hotels that put me up with special rates for hospital visits, to the nurses on the floors, the hopsices, the people who facebooked, sent texts, sent flowers, did the flowers, came to the visitation, made calls, attended to my many....and I assure you that these blessings will never go without thanks....

thanks be to God.
Know these folks...I am forever grateful to them:
Hospice of Wake County
Rex Hospital 
Rex Cancer Center
Ramada Inn on Blue Ridge Road
Whole Foods at Quail Ridge Shopping Center
McLeod's Florists in Angier, North Carolina
New Hope Presbyterian Church
Williford's Funderal Home
Comfort Inn Fuquay Varina
Cary Cardiologist 

Lenwood Sherill Dean Sr., passed peacefully into the presence of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on July 19, 2012 at home surrounded by his family. A native of willow Spring, and the son of the late Paul and Ada Dean, Sherill was a retired tobacco buyer with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Sherill treasured his family, his friends and his church. Left to cherish sweet memories of Sherill are his wife, Brenda W. Dean, children Leanne Dean Walters and husband Buddy of Fuquay Varina, son L.S. “Bo” Dean Jr. and partner Michael Freeze of Wilmington, stepdaughter Dawn Mayo of Sanford. Grandchildren Lauren Walters Butts and husband Stephen, Morgan Adaire Walters, great grandchildren Mason, Garrett and Wesley Butts. Step-grandchildren Chris Adams, Wesley and Jeremy Walten and Haley Frame. Brothers and sisters in law Marshel and Joy Dean, the late Bobby G. Dean and Peggy all of Willow Spring. Nephew Tim Dean and wife Kelly of Ocean Isle.
The family wishes to thank Dr. China Goli, Dr. JoEllen Specca and their office staff, as well as special friends Phillip Carroll, Sammy and Jennifer Warren for their assistance and love for our father. Any remembrances in Sherill’s honor may be sent to Hospice of Wake County.
The family will receive friends from 6:00-8:00 pm, Saturday July 21, 2012 at Williford Funeral Home with services at New Hope Presbyterian Church, Hwy 42 Willow Spring, on Sunday, July 22,2012 at 1:00 pm

Cary Cardiologist

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