A few weeks ago on December 17th, after about three weeks in Intensive Care, first at Baptist and then at the long-term Select Specialty Hospital, Daddy coughed – or threw – up some black stuff and “passed”, as the nurse put it. Mom was, by a miracle, with him and had him in her arms up until running out to fetch help. She had returned from running errands minutes earlier. Wonderful the way we seem to be able to time our deaths. December 17th was the date when Mom’s dad died as well.
I drove up to the hospital immediately and brought this twisty wooden scepter that mom and I had come up with as a hand-made Christmas gift for Dad. Mom put it in his hand, resting across his chest and over his heart. The body was still quite warm. It was beautiful. We hung out with him for a couple of hours. The hospital chaplain tried to push his friend’s funeral home on us, going as far as telling us we shouldn’t call our funeral home in New Jersey. Sleazy. Mom laid down with Daddy, “one last time”.
Called all the other children, Mom’s two siblings and Dad’s closest brother. His body cooled down slowly. The hands that hardly worked any more and required “gauntlets” to keep the wrists from reaching ninety degree angles at night would no longer frustrate him. Last Christmas we tried hard to convince him they could still be used to draw, but he could do little more than spread batches of color with the pastels and opted out of that endeavor. There may have been a moment or two throughout the year.
Finally and end to dialysis. An end to the constant task of determining what he could eat, or if he could eat, and preparing it. Pulverized everything. We broke the no food rule in that last week and snuck him some vanilla pudding with a hit of Captain Morgan’s in it. Rum. Yum. Mom talked about Daddy licking his lips enthusiastically with every bite those last days.
He and I had some tender moments. He was like a baby. Hardly able to speak and barely understanding where he was or what was happening. We told him he would be home for Christmas. I asked him if there was anything he could tell me that would be good for me to know after he died. He said, “I want to be buried”. You will, Dad. He was.
Dad was flown up to New Jersey for a “green burial”. He was buried, naked, wrapped in a shroud, in the cardboard container he was shipped in. We said the only thing that would have been more Hugh Kilmer would be if the coffin was made from used liquor store boxes. The funeral cost over eleven thousand dollars.
I’ve been telling people that Daddy is not gone and certainly not to me, as he’s in me and I’m made of him. As with Doris, his … Read the rest