If you're wondering why there is so much significance with this day, then let me take you back to the moment I knew my world would never be the same. It was 1 AM and my Nana and I had just gotten back to her house after a long drive. We were ready for bed, thinking that tomorrow we would be returning to the hospital in the morning to visit my dad. The phone rang, expecting it to be a family member I picked up, ready to recall the information the doctors had given me.
"It's most likely another stroke. We'll get him stabilized, and we'll have more information in the morning." That's what they told me when I had left the hospital that night. There was hope. There was something to hold onto. But instead of my aunts voice I heard an unfamiliar voice on the other end of the line.
"Miss Parish, we've received the results of the MRI, and it was in fact another stroke. We have two options, We can try an invasive surgery that has a low chance of success, or we can wait it out and most likely he'll be gone by the morning."
My knees were weak, all I could hear was a buzzing in my ears. "Miss Parish, are you still there? We do need a decision from you."
Finally I found my voice " Yeah I'm here." I was shaking, I know he could hear it in my voice "Can I please have a couple of minutes? Will you call back in 10 minutes?"
I know the doctor answered, but what he said, I'm not sure. Before I knew it, I was on my knees crying out to God "Why?? Why are you taking my dad from me? I'm 26, This isn't fair!! I shouldn't have to make this decision!! You took my mom, and now you want my dad?? I'm too young for this!!"
It was my Nana who snapped me back to the reality of the situation. Her words were sharp, but they broke through the haze. I had to call someone, anyone. I needed some sort of answer, I wracked my brain and came up with the only number I had memorized and could recall at that moment.
Punching in the numbers, I suddenly realized how late it was, but I just needed someone to talk to. Jim answered. He had obviously been sleeping, but was still coherent enough know that I needed to talk to Toni. What I said to her I'm still unsure of, but I do know this, it was fast and probably made very little sense. But despite a lack of answers, it was just what I needed.
(I don't think I've ever said it, but thank you Toni.)
I hung up, and the phone rang immediately. "Hello" I answered, confident in my decision. "Miss Parish, You need to come to the hospital."
I don't think I responded I just hung up the phone. We dressed and got back in the car. On the way, we called my aunts. They were all going to meet us there. I also called and had my sisters on their way. That was the longest trip I have ever made. Every stoplight felt like an eternity. I hated knowing what we were facing. My mind was so occupied by my own thoughts "what am I going to do? Who's going to take care of Dani? What about Nana, how is she going to handle this? This isn't fair! Why now? God why??"
Finally we arrived at the hospital and made our way to the proper floor. There we were, my Nana, and my four aunts and three of their husbands. Standing around my dad. He was hooked up to machines. Machines that were keeping him alive. The doctor explained that the stroke was very severe and there was no way they could save him. They would keep him alive so that we could say goodbye.
We were just waiting for my sisters to arrive. We stood there unsure of what to do next. I decided to leave for a bit so that my aunts could have time with their brother, as well as my Nana to have time with her son.
I paced the hallway. Then I found myself in the bathroom staring into the mirror. I didn't recognize the woman staring back. Just two months ago, I was here bringing my dad home. He had survived a stroke, and was making a great recovery. This didn't make any sense. I was again snapped back to reality by a knock on the bathroom door....
It was my turn...
I stood in his room, looking at him laying there. The man that had comforted me after my mom's accident almost 10 years earlier. He looked so helpless. My heart ached, physically ached. I wanted so badly to climb onto his lap and have him help me through this. I spent the next 15 minutes crying, yelling, and questioning him. "You're my dad. You know how to handle all of this, not me. What am I going to do without you? How am I going to even begin to take care of Libbie and Dani? Dad I cannot do this without you!! "
I still don't know how I didn't disturb every person within 50 yards of that room. Finally, my sisters had arrived. I tried my best to console them, but how do you when your own heart is being ripped out? When we had all said goodbye, I told the nurse, it was time.
Have you ever had to tell someone that it was time to let your loved one die?? Man it is the worst feeling ever. I pray that you don't ever have to do it!
I stood by his side as his body gave up. His breaths became more and more labored, and his body began to shut down. I held his hand hoping for some sort of response, but there was nothing. By the time he was officially gone, I was left alone in his room, again. Looking at the man who had held my hand through so much. The man that was my hero, who taught me so many lessons and values. There he lay. Knowing it was time to say goodbye, I leaned down and kissed his forehead one last time, "Dad I promise to chase every great adventure that presents itself! I love you so much!"
With that, I knew my dad was gone.
Tear filled embraces awaited me as my family members parted ways. Four sisters who had just said goodbye to their brother, three brother-in-laws bidding a friend farewell. And then my Nana, letting her oldest child go. I know she saw him as her little boy again. I know everything in her wanted to hold him in her arms and make it all ok with her soothing words, and motherly ways. We had all lost someone significant, and here we were knowing the next days, weeks, and months were going to be a battle between the lives we had to lead, and the grief that would consume us.
Then a beautiful moment happened in the darkened hallway of that hospital. An Indian woman, who had to be in her 30's stopped my sisters and I. With tears in her eyes she hugged each of us, letting us know how sorry she was for our loss. I never found out her name, or her story, but her gesture was a beautiful gift in a moment of utter grief.
We finally got back to my Nana's around 8 in the morning. I crawled into bed and forced myself to sleep. Waking up only hours later, I realized that it was all real. The whole day leading up to it, and the very moment I had to say goodbye. I was hoping it was a bad dream, but it was not. My dad was gone, and I had a long week of memorial service arrangements, sad faces, and somber phone calls to face.
But it was in those moments that I found myself in the midst of the most beautiful peace I have ever known. God was there. His spirit was whispering to me "I've got him now Nichie. Rest in my arms, you are strong, because I am strong in you".
I serve an amazing God! His timing is perfect... always!! Even in the times I don't understand, His loving words tell me this simple fact "I love you, I've got you, I will bring beauty from the ashes of your brokenness."
I know this was long, and it really wasn't what I planned on writing, but there is something therapeutic about putting this experience in writing. It's been a year, and some days it's easier, but some days, the pain and words are still fresh. It's on those days that I cling even more tightly to Jesus. He is my only hope!
Thank you for reading all the way to the end. And thank you to those of you who have been a part of this last year. I'm going to share what the last year has been like over the next several weeks. I'm hoping that if some day, someone finds themselves in a similar situation, they will be comforted in knowing that they are not alone, and that there are others out there who have been through this fire.
I love you dear friend!