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Turkey Creek Lane · Courage Defined

Tuesday night my father died.

He had terminal cancer, congestive heart failure and failing kidneys. The last years of his life he slept in a recliner to breathe because fluid kept filling his lungs.

The daily newspaper and keeping up with goings on around town was my father’s pleasure. But, he developed a problem with his tear ducts. Not only did that prevent reading, but his cheeks were often chapped from being wet and wiped dry.

On good days my father was able to drink a couple of cans of Ensure. Other times he only finished half a can. Nothing else stayed down. With so little food, the weight drop and dehydration caused his arms to turn dark and purple, which itched. His arms became scratched and bruised. Because the cancer had spread to his bones, the pain was constant despite prescribed patches. The doctors kept upping the dosages. But care had to be used with medication because my father’s kidneys and heart were failing

Yet, almost to the end and on the last day of his life, my father was aware and communicating coherently.

I never knew a person who wanted to live or savored life more.

He refused to sign the “no code” papers.

“I want to be around a little longer,” he said, “the pain isn’t so bad.”

“What about prostate cancer vaccines?” my father asked the doctor who inquired if he had looked into hospice.

The doctor said it would be awhile before they were released and said he would discuss vaccines with my father then. Which to me was his way of telling my father he was going to be gone before that ever came about. It hurt to see my father’s lingering hopes so casually stomped out. I looked up the latest information online and was heartsick to find out that my father had already been alive long past the most optimistic results from the newest vaccines for his stage of cancer . I gave excuses to my father for not looking up and printing out for him the information he requested.

Last summer my father’s medication caused internal bleeding, a loss of 8 pints of blood, weeks in the hospital and a stay in a nursing home. Few would have survived the blood loss, even without cancer, congestive heart failure and poor kidney function. But, my father was motivated.

“I don’t want to die,” he said to my mother while they waited for the ambulance. “I don’t want to leave you.”

The doctors asked my father if he had a living will. He refused to answer. Despite his pain and limitations, he wouldn’t consider an end. Life still contained pleasures.

My father slept days so he could stay up late to listen to the RFD channel which featured old time country and western music in early morning hours. I remember how his eyes shined when he told my husband and I about a Statler Brothers’ special.

My mother’s Yorkshire terrier, Pixie, is something else. She doesn’t come when called most of the time. She digs into pockets and purses at every opportunity and refuses to give up her stolen treasures. She’s full of bounce and mischief. Yet, she was gentle and careful with my dad and often took naps with him on the recliner. I can’t believe I will never again see her cuddled up against his leg with my father absently stroking her.

More than anything else, and with every core of his being, my father loved my mother. He loved her voice, her moods, the way she loved animals. He loved the way she spent days and hours researching to get a piece of furniture in an exact color. Or repapering a kitchen wall because she’d decided she didn’t really like her first wallpaper choice. My father was as proud of her accomplishments as if they were his own.

And no matter how bad things were for him, mom was my dad’s main worry.

“Go see your mother,” he told me when I visited him in the nursing home. “She gets lonely.”

“Your mom is going to wear herself out coming back and forth to see me,” he said while he was in the hospital,” she doesn’t have to come tomorrow.”

During my father’s last good day, my daughter called him. They discussed stocks, one of dad’s favorite subjects. But, before they hung up, my father told my daughter to be happy, to do with her life what she wanted to do and not to waste a moment.

My son visited. He got a lecture on being careful with his money. Then before my son left the hospital room, my father asked him to stop. He told my son he loved him and said to stand there for awhile because he just wanted to look at him.

Soon afterwards my father was drowning from the fluid in his lungs and unable to breathe. He still would not discuss coding with hospital personnel. The doctor said that they could drain the lungs but there was a good chance they would fill again. I did not want my father to drown that way, scared, unable to breathe and knowing he was dying.

I see things differently than most people. My Living Will includes taking extraordinary measures.

Like my father, my happiness comes from life on this earth. I cannot imagine greater pleasures than seeing my husband’s special smile for me, hearing my child’s voice over the phone announcing a new baby on the way, hearing one of my daughter’s works has been published, burying my face in Simba’s cottony good smelling fur and kissing him all over or seeing Abby’s face light up when I say the words “walk “or “garden“. I want to stay here. Clouds and harps and song and light hold no attraction. I want to live.

My father took his last stand. He wanted his lungs drained. He was trying to do what he had been able to do so many times in the past. He was trying get better and go home. The operation was a success. His lungs were x-rayed and declared clear. I thought he‘d make it.

He always had.

Only my father’s voice became raspy. His face became ghostly and gray. He couldn’t talk. Trying drained him. He might be aware enough to see my husband and I and say, “How have you been?” Then he’d be gone. He slept most of the time. He’d smile to see family, but his eyes would roll back. He began breathing mainly through his mouth.

Tuesday the nurses called and said to come right away.

When we arrived at the hospital, my father didn’t seem to know us. My mother said she and my brother and I were with him now, that we loved him and that we would stay with him. She said he nodded.

The doctor ordered blood.

As the blood dripped into his arm, the change in my father was dramatic.

He rasped out a request for water. He was able to sip from a cup. He said something about home. Soon, we said, maybe tomorrow. My father’s heart rate began dropping. He started making the scrunching movements he makes when he needs to be raised in his chair to breathe better. He asked for air. He already was getting oxygen. We got a fan and blew it in his face and asked him if that was better. He nodded yes.

He said he hurt and tried to pull out his IV.” Hurt” he kept saying, and then he would beg for air.

I went out and talked to the nurse. She said because of my father’s heart and kidneys they could not give him pain medication because it would wipe him out. She said he had not had medicine for pain for two days. I asked if his lungs might be filling up again with fluid. She said they most likely were.

My father was drowning and hurting. I asked the nurse if he was going to die. She said he was, and that the best thing to do for him was to be with him and to hold his hands.

I started crying.

“He hurts. He‘s drowning and he knows it. He‘s scared.”

The nurse said she would talk to my mother and then talk to the doctor.

I went back to my father and watched my husband and brother try to make my dad more comfortable. He was squirming and trying to pick his shirt off. He pushed my hand away. He said something about my mom. Fortunately she soon came in.

“He wants you, mom.”

“I’m here. The kids are here,” my mother said. She put her hand over his.

“I love you. I‘m going to stay with you.”

Then, I saw the nurse. She had liquid medicine in a plastic cup and held a hypodermic. Softly she said the doctor had ordered morphine. I looked into her eyes and knew.

“Take your medicine so you’ll feel better,” my mom said.

“She’s giving you medicine so you can go home, Dad.” I said.

My dad relaxed. As dutifully as a little boy obeying his mother, my father pursed his lips. He sipped the drink. He then straightened his arm. The nurse injected morphine into the IV. My father’s face became soft. His breathing slowed. He quit gasping and picking at his shirt.

I watched the machine that had long ago started flashing red instead of green. My father’s heart rate dropped to twenty, then ten., My eyes began misting. I couldn’t look at my mom or brother. I looked across the room and saw my husband fold his hands in prayer.

My father was not a quitter. He raged and fought against the dark longer than I ever believed any human could have the strength. But, in the end he went gently.

For that I am grateful. I know his last thoughts were of home, my mother and all he loved most.

  1. Robin’s avatar

    I’m sorry. I’ve been there and know how this hurts, like no other hurt in the world. Life will never be the same but it does get easier in time. My heartfelt prayers and wishes are with you and your family.



  2. LeBlanc’s avatar

    I am sorry for your loss. I couldn’t imagine going through what you have.


  3. chughes’s avatar

    My condolences, Joy. What a brave man you father is! i say is because he is always your Dad. That doesn’t change.

    My father passed similarly. Lung cancer. We were all there and i am grateful for that. i was a child of nine then, but i remember my daddy trying to get out of bed because he wanted to go home, then collapsing, exhausted, then dying.

    My prayers are with you and your family.



  4. Kim’s avatar

    Condolences to you and your family. I admire your father’s will to live throughout it all…. incredibly brave. Your post was tough to read, but beautifully written and very moving.

    You and your family are in my prayers.


  5. merrimerri’s avatar

    MY heartfelt sympathy and hugs ((((Jolynna))))
    That was VERY hard to read…but not as hard as it was for you to write it..
    I am so glad that the Dr helped him at the end..
    take care…


  6. jiva’s avatar

    nobody deserves to suffer, he was a brave and wonderful soul and you have put it in to such heart felt and suitable words.
    I feel for you honey and I can see you know how much he loved you all, which is his legacy and support for you all during his passing.


  7. jayedee’s avatar

    and so he went Home.

    your post was difficult to read, but it truly was a loving and eloquent tribute to your father.

    i’d like to leave you with the words to a steven curtis chapman song that we played at my son, jordin’s memorial service.

    With Hope

    This is not at all how
    We thought it was supposed to be
    We had so many plans for you
    We had so many dreams
    And now you’ve gone away
    And left us with the memories of your smile
    And nothing we can say
    And nothing we can do
    Can take away the pain
    The pain of losing you, but …

    We can cry with hope
    We can say goodbye with hope
    ‘Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no
    And we can grieve with hope
    ‘Cause we believe with hope
    (There’s a place by God’s grace)
    There’s a place where we’ll see your face again
    We’ll see your face again

    And never have I known
    Anything so hard to understand
    And never have I questioned more
    The wisdom of God’s plan
    But through the cloud of tears
    I see the Father’s smile and say well done
    And I imagine you
    Where you wanted most to be
    Seeing all your dreams come true
    ‘Cause now you’re home
    And now you’re free, and …

    We have this hope as an anchor
    ‘Cause we believe that everything
    God promised us is true, so …

    We wait with hope
    And we ache with hope
    We hold on with hope
    We let go with hope

    you will be in my prayers during these next difficult days.

    with respect and understanding,


  8. barngoddess’s avatar

    joy, ((hugs))

    I am so very, very sorry….


  9. healingmagichands’s avatar

    I am so sorry for your loss, Jolynna. My thoughts are with you today.

    Your father lived as fully and as long as he possibly could, and you should take joy and pride in that. But no matter what, when we are born our physical death has been made certain by the fact of our birth, as the end of our lives as physical beings is the natural end of the life cycle.

    I read beautiful posts like this one and remind myself of this fact, for I know that soon I will be facing the same loss. My father is 82, my mother will be 80 this winter, and I will have to deal with their deaths sooner or later. I am not looking forward to it, and I wonder if reminding myself that it was inevitable will ease my pain at all. I don’t know.


  10. Melany aka Supermom’s avatar

    I am so very very sorry. I am crying for you and your family.


  11. Simply Marvelous’s avatar

    How very sorry I am for this sad, sad news. You have written a wonderful tribute to your father.

    It brings back the memories of my own father’s struggle for just one more hour of life as I stood by his bed. He was only 62 years old. Cancer.

    You have been blessed to have had such a courageous father and one who gave all of you the greatest gift … he adored your mother.

    The pain of the loss always stays, in time, the memories bring you comfort.
    The older we get … the more we yearn for their presence. The blessing of having such wonderful parents … is the treasure they leave us.

    I am so sad and so very sorry.


  12. rockyroadoflove’s avatar

    I am so very, very sorry.

    When my brother died a terrible death last year, friends in Paris sent me this Robert Frost poem, hoping I would find comfort in it. I offer the same hope for you.

    When I come to the end of the road
    And the sun has set for me
    I want no rites in a gloom-filled room
    Why cry for a soul set free?
    Miss me a little, but not too long
    And not with your head bowed low.
    Remember the love that we once shared
    Miss me, but let me go.
    For this is a journey that we must take
    And each must go alone.
    It’s all a step in the master’s plan
    A step on the road to home.
    When you are lonely and sick of heart
    Go to the friends we know
    And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.
    Miss me, but let me go.

    Robert Frost 1875-1963


  13. jayedee’s avatar

    just checking in to let you know you continue to be in my thoughts and prayers!


  14. over50now’s avatar

    That is an absolutely beautiful tribute to your father. He sounds like he was a wonderful man.


  15. jolynna’s avatar

    I’d like to thank each and every one of you for your kind words, thoughts, prayers and poems. My daughter read many of them with me and your words meant a lot to us both.

    This is the second time I have tried to respond here. I accidently lost my first message.

    Just know that your words are appreciated, that I am reading, and how much it means to me that you took the time to comment.

    Thank you again.


  16. jayedee’s avatar

    a little reminder for you today to be gentle with yourself. grief is a journey and it’s path unique for everyone who travels it. there is no right way or wrong way to grieve, there is only YOUR way, and whatever way that is, is ok.
    i’m continuing to hold you close in thoughts and prayers.


  17. ellaella’s avatar

    I am so very sorry to hear this. Please accept my deepest condolences and know that you — and he — are in my prayers.


  18. terra4incognita’s avatar

    My condolences to you and your family, jolynna. I’m so sorry to hear this. Your dad sounds like a strong and wonderful man, and your post is a great memorial and tribute to him. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.


  19. paperseedblog’s avatar

    Jolynna, thank you for sharing this touching post with the rest of us. I am at a loss to describe how meaningful and important your writing comes across. Life is so fleeting, and its good to be reminded to feel blessed and savor every single moment.


  20. meiguotaiwanren’s avatar

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Hugs.


  21. nouveaufauves’s avatar


    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked no lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    And you, my father, there on the sad height,
    Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
    Dylan Thomas

    Lets face it, Dylan was being selfish…. He did not want to lose his father. But which is better, to let go or fight? Does it really matter which attitude you chose when your life is over? I don’t much believe in a hereafter so this is it! Why not fight for a few more moments? Your story is so similar to my mother’s and my father’s death. It is very hard for me to read. However, you are getting your pain out and dealt with. Good. I have bottled mine up for years.


  22. jayedee’s avatar

    Oh heart, if one should say to you that the soul perishes like the body, answer that the flower withers, but the seed remains. ~Kahlil Gibran


  23. healingmagichands’s avatar

    How are you doing? Still breathing in and breathing out? Know that we are still thinking of you and care.


  24. jolynna’s avatar

    Thank you all so much for the beautiful poems and words. That all of you understood so well whatI was trying so hard to share means much to me now. I wish you could have known my father. He was not only a brave and strong man, he was a good man.

    I am sorry so many of you have also been through this experience.
    Nourveaufauves, I thought so much about Dylan Thomas’ poem during my father’s last year, it so describes my feelings and I believe much of my father’s as well.

    Thank you jayedee for continuing to check back.

    I appreciate all of you taking the time to comment and offer your words of comfort. Please know that I have been reading and appreciating your being here.


  25. Laurie’s avatar

    Your courage was defined by writing this post. I dodged the details of witnessing my father’s death for years. Thank you for sharing this.

    I hope that you are healing and my thoughts are with you.


  26. chughes’s avatar

    It is good to see you back.
    Blessings on you.


  27. jayedee’s avatar

    i was just down in the garden thinking about you and your parents and had to come back to the house and write how your dad’s love for your mom touched my heart.
    theirs truly must be one of the great love stories of our time. oh not the glamorous ones you read about it books, but the down deep abiding kind that we all wish for ourselves and our children.
    what a lovely example for all of us! thank you.


  28. jolynna’s avatar

    Hi Laurie,

    It was a very hard post to write. I was up all night and cried the whole time. But, I felt as if I had to do it. My father was a good man. Despite everything he was going through, even after he was admitted to the hospital and could barely breathe, his thoughts and worries were about my mother and the family.

    I wanted to convey his essense, unselfishness, his love of life and courage. He fought to the last to stay with those he loved.


    That you so much for your kind welcome back and blessings.


    I agree that there is a lesson in how much my father loved my mother. While he was still totally concious some of my father’s very last words and thoughts were for and about my mother.

    I won’t share the exact words out of respect for their privacy, but they were as sweet and romantic as anything from any romance novel. That kind of feeling between people does exist, even in couples that have been together over 50 years.

    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I really appreciate it.


  29. paintingartist’s avatar

    All I can say is I’m moved to no end and my prayers are with you and your family. Great to hear of a man who’s thoughts were for other people’s welfare moreso than their own. No doubt that sacrificial life of his brought him more peace than anything else could have.

    Sorry for your loss and thank you for sharing.



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