Since my father passed away in April, I have struggled to maintain normalcy in my life. There’s an aspect of it I have not spoken about with anyone. I’m going to do that now. Partly to help explain why I have been struggling with social media/social interactions and partly to help people understand what is needed.
For most of a week, my father was kept alive by mechanical means. A ventilator breathed for him and an implant helped pump his heart. He did not have an advanced directive or a living will. We were making decisions as a family. But sometimes in the dead of night, I wonder if we made the correct one.
Another death figured into our decision to take my father off life support. In 1998, my paternal adopted grandmother had a stroke. She was revived in the hospital, to the extent that she could breathe on her own and her heart pumped, but the stroke caused massive brain damage and something bizarre happened… In the mornings, she could talk a small amount but in the afternoons she was basically a vegetable with very little to no brain activity. Thankfully, she was able to give some assistance with her own decisions, and she refused a feeding tube. The hospital had revived her despite a DNR and she was ready. For twenty days, we watched her starve to death which was what she decided.
Now, back to the original purpose. My father told us he didn’t want to go like his mom had. As such, when the doctor told us there was no chance of recovery, we agreed to take him off life support. I know we made the right decision. But sometimes, when people are being nasty to each other or when I am alone and not engaged in writing, my brain wonders… Did dad mean he didn’t want to starve to death? Did he mean he didn’t want to be in a vegetative state? Which leads to the question, did I prematurely kill my father?
Most of my brain tells me I did not. I did the right thing and I didn’t solely make the decision. But every so often that thought rears its ugly head and I am filled with doubt, sadness, guilt, and anger. And I have found that it happens more often when I am social media, which is part of the reason I am still mostly absent from it.
And today and tomorrow, I will struggle with it even more. I turn 40 tomorrow. It will be the first birthday in a long time when I do not awake to a voicemail from my dad telling me to call him back and when I would return the call he would sing Happy Birthday off key and very dramatically. Surprisingly, I am going to miss that.