My father has been winding down these last few days. I'll go into more detail when I have had time to process everything, but be it known this was a series of decisions on Dad's part. Not a giving up, but a reassessment of the possible as his medical condition changed. Five days ago he elected to do without the feeding tube. Shortly thereafter he changed his status from "Full Code" to "DNR/DNI" -- meaning no extraordinary measures to revive him or keep his body going by artificial means. He reaffirmed his faith, has had the anointing of the sick (aka last rights) and has spoken with the priest and church volunteers more than once.
Thursday evening he had a good two hours with his grandson Anson; though he could barely speak he was lucid and in good spirits. Anson recounted one exchange:
"How are we doing?"
"Not doing too well, grandpa."
"Still looking good, though."
Friday he was not lucid all day.
Yesterday morning at 6:45, a bit over twenty-four hours ago, I came by Dad's room at Cape Fear Hospital after dropping Valerie off for her shift at New Hanover Regional Hospital. I had intended to sit with Dad until my brother got down from DC, then go to my office and do 47 pounds of overdue paperwork. But when I arrived Dad wasn't doing good and I stuck around after my brother arrived. At about noon the doctor told us that instead of weeks or months, we were talking hours before Dad passed away.
Unlike yesterday, Dad was lucid in and out during the day and was able to spend time with my brother, his grandson, and his oldest grandchild. He could not speak, but he responded to jokes, managed an "amen" when he was prayed over, and squeezed people's hands to let them know he heard them. Our eldest went to get Valerie after work. Perhaps it was because there were so many of us crowding around for attention, but from 9 to midnight he was part of the conversation. Around 11:30 PM our son called his little sister, currently at William & Mary, on Skype. She's not aware her grandfather's as near the end as he is and we did not use the video feature. Instead she sang for her grandfather. He has always loved her singing. She sang Shalom Rav
, a lovely melody from an anime series
, Breath of Heaven
and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B
. Dad smiled broadly throughout.
Shortly after midnight, Dad went to sleep. He's been sleeping ever since -- though he scared us with long periods of apnea every half hour, regular as clockwork. The nurse stopped saying "it won't be long now" around 3AM and Dad has kept on breathing.
No idea whether he'll wake up again, but the way things are shutting down we're looking at another day at most. I'll let you know how things turn out.