I woke up Friday morning with the knowledge that my dad was going to die that day.
He’d been unconscious and on a ventilator for two weeks, and was showing no signs of improvement. His heart was weakening, and he was developing blood clots. Nothing good was going to come out of any of this, and it was decided that later that afternoon we’d be disconnecting him from the ventilator and releasing him from his suffering.
My mom, in full PPE, was permitted to be with him. She’s COVID-positive. I’m not, and therefore they could not allow me into the hospital. I fully understand that, and I doubt he would have wanted me there anyway, because of his protective nature. So I watched my dad die from the comfort of my own bed, on FaceTime, on my phone.
They put his phone up to his ear and let me speak. My mom, his wife of 46 years, stroked his hair with a gloved hand and told him it was okay to go.
It was all over in minutes. After disconnecting him, he went into respiratory failure and peacefully died.
This was a man who, as a firefighter, saved many a child from many a burning building. Lives were lived because of his intervention. He’s well-known in the firefighting community for his service as the former Chief of the Fort Sill Fire Dept, as well as his time as a state Fire Marshall and his involvement with the Oklahoma Firefighters Association. His integrity was unwavering, and he fought against the good ol’ boy system at every turn, even when it made him extremely unpopular with certain “important” people who didn’t take too kindly to his not simply giving them a pass on fire code violations. He did not care what anyone thought about it, either. They expected him to play the game, but he stood for what was right, and stood his ground. He showed me, by example, how to be a man of integrity and to never back down on my convictions. Throughout his life, he stood up for the underdogs and stood nose-to-nose with corruption and never blinked.
That guy dying in the pic above? That’s a hero. Not only is he a combat veteran, and a lifelong fireman, he was also heavily involved in children’s charity work. He was extremely active in various church activities that helped a lot of people. He never stopped. He was active until the day he got sick.
The last time I saw him was at the beginning of March, on his birthday. I gave him a children’s birthday card and wrote something inside of it about how he’d had so many birthdays I’d burned through all of the adult cards. We laughed. We hugged. I went to work.
This has all happened so suddenly that I’m not sure what to think or how to process it. I can’t even hug my mom. She had to drive herself home and go back into her house and be alone. All I can do is visit her from the back porch, our phones both on speaker.
I’m angry. At what, though? I don’t know, specifically. I’m angry at people who aren’t taking this seriously, for one, even though he contracted it before anyone knew it was going to be a big deal. The world was a different place three weeks ago.
After I watched him die, I cried, I shouted and cursed and pounded my fist on my dresser. And then I started laughing like a lunatic. Losing a parent is really weird, guys, especially when everything is so depersonalized now, by necessity.
Anticlimactic is the word that first comes to mind. I got a call from his phone after waiting all day long for 3:00, as if waiting on a hanging, and there he was. He died, and my mom drove home and my wife and I ate dinner and watched the Joe Exotic thing on Netflix, and I laughed.
He had a huge celebration planned for his funeral, and now he’ll just go into the ground with none of his beloved church family at the Edmond Church of Christ, no honor guards, no flag ceremony and USAF buglers, no anything of his meticulously-detailed previously written instructions for conducting his funeral.
We’ll have a memorial later on, but for right now, if you have a family member who dies of this, they die and you go home. And that’s it. I can’t even hug my mom. She’s a tough woman, but I know this is testing even her limits. I just want her to get well. I don’t want to lose them both at once. Please, be careful out there, people. You don’t want this.