Doula-ing My Dad

In June of 2009 my dad called me and told me that the cancer in his throat had come back and that it was inoperable. I felt completely numb. He might as well have told me that the milk he just bought was bad. I thought I didn’t care.

I told him about a few holistic things he could use and forced myself to call him every now and then to see how he was doing and have him hear my voice.

We didn’t have the best relationship. He wasn’t exactly the ideal father and when I was grown and he wanted to be a part of my life, I didn’t really want him in it, nor did I understand his suddenly wanting to be closer to me. My thought was: You can’t miss what you never had.

I made a decision to forgive my father a few years ago but my feelings had yet to catch up to that decision and as a result, I was fine with keeping some distance between us. Love was never in question, we loved each other the best we could, it was just the other relationship stuff that was hard for me with him. I talk to my mom several times a day but could easily go weeks, 8 months or even a year without speaking with my dad.

I used to think that all I learned from him was what not to do but of course with hindsight being 20/20, I can clearly remember that he taught me so much more. One of the biggest things he taught me was not to judge people. With him, I always knew I could go to him about anything and he wouldn’t judge me at all. He might laugh at me, but he’d never judge me. He had a way of making me laugh when I thought all hell was breaking loose in my life.

During the last few months of his life, my heart began to change towards him. I didn’t realize it was the last few months of his life. It took me a while to realize it but when I did I was astonished as I began to call him not out of obligation but because I missed him and wanted to hear from him, however, our phone conversations had to become text messages as he wasn’t able to speak anymore because of the cancer. I also began to long to see him and I planned to visit him after my 2 clients gave birth near the end of October.

I remember when I learned that he was receiving hospice care, I (knowing full well what that meant) kept looking up the definition of hospice care because surely, this wasn’t really happening, not to him.

Once my last client gave birth, I went to visit him. The first day I wanted to visit him, he was taken from his home to a hospice center. I took my girls and we went to see him on October 30th. When I walked in, the man I saw all frail and lethargic in that bed was not my father. This was not the man who on October 31, 2008, smiled at me, and flashed his dimples and hazel eyes as I signed copies of my book at my book signing. The man in that bed was a mere shell of my father. Only looking into his eyes which at that time were a calm gray, made me know it was truly him.

He looked up at me for a moment then seemed to fall asleep. He looked up again at my daughter and mouthed hello. I went into doula mode. I pulled out my essential oils and rubbed balsam fir and frankincense on the back of his neck. I rubbed and kissed his hands, head, face and feet. I rubbed his hair and talked to him, prayed with him, prayed for him and sang to him. After staying a few hours, I told him that I wanted to come and see him again the following day and asked him not to leave.

I returned the following evening and knew it would be our last time together. I talked to him some of the time, held his hand, kissed him, and just looked at him and cried. I kept telling him I was going to go but I’d find myself back at his side again talking to him and crying. I thanked him for waiting for me as I knew I was the last of his children to visit him. I sang to him a song that wished him peace until we met again. I kissed his cheek and laughed realizing I’d never kissed his cheek in my life. All my life, I’d kiss my dad square on the lips, even as an adult, lol!

When I finally resolved to really leave, it was almost midnight. I told him I was leaving for real this time and that it was ok for him to go. I told him that I’d see him again one day and when that day came, we’d get all that we got wrong on this side, right on the other side. Reluctantly and tearfully, I began to leave, only to stop at the door and stand there for a while staring at him. I almost felt that as long as I stayed there, he’d stay too.

Not quite 2 hours had gone by after I left him that I received a call from my sister saying our dad had passed.

It’s been 6 months now and it’s been hard of course, but I am comforted when I clearly hear his voice saying, “Hold your head up Champ! You’ll be alright”, and, “As long as you keep waking up on this side, you still have a shot at the title.”

12 thoughts on “Doula-ing My Dad

  1. trice.. This entry is BEAUTIFUL! Stay encouraged…. I love the part that reads that we got it wrong on this side but when we get to the other side we will get it right…..

  2. Isn’t it crazy what we THINK we should hold in.. and then it ends up being a blessing when we share 😉

  3. The gift of having the chance to say I love you and goodbye is one of the most valuable in life. Although my mum slipped into a coma and died the same day – the night before we had “our moment” and I thank god for it every night. I got to say I love you one last time and it’s a relef knowing it was clearly said. Bless you Patrice and your family

  4. Grief is such a hard emotion, but in sharing you help yourself and others.

    I lost a dear aunt in March and it is extremely hard for me to comprehend. But you so eloquently said what I feel. Even though I am heartbroken, I find peace in hearing her voice and seeing her smile.

    Thank you for sharing! This is BEAUTIFUL!!!

  5. Oh sweet Patrice….thank you for sharing. This was beautiful just like you.

    Love ya

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