By: Joseph 1. Mazzella
It is hard to write when your heart is breaking, but something deep inside me needs to say this right now. At this moment I am sitting in a chair by my Dad’s bedside in the nursing home where he has lived for the past few months. His breathing is slowly getting more labored as he sleeps. Fortunately new medications have eased the pain and seizures he was having, but it is only a matter of time until he leaves this world now.
It has been a long struggle for him the last few years. C.O.P.D, repeated bouts of pneumonia, lung cancer, prostate cancer, brain cancer, radiation, and chemotherapy have slowly battered both his body and his mind. In the end it was the brain cancer than did the most damage leaving him confused, paralyzed on his left side, and having horrible seizures. In the end it will take everything but his spirit. Thankfully, that will rest in God’s loving hands.
The last few days my brothers and I have been spending most of our time by his bed. Sometimes it has been all three of us, sometimes two, and sometimes just one. Most of the time we have just held his hand and talked to his spirit still trapped in his body. And we have all prayed to God to let Dad’s suffering end soon so he can join my Mom, Nana, and the rest of his family who have passed on into the love and the light.
A few minutes ago the nurses and aides came in to check on him. Even though they too know his time is near they still treated him with the same love and tenderness they have since he arrived here from the Veterans’ Hospital. Their kind words and soothing touches always calmed his spirit even as his body and mind continued to weaken. They were not afraid to see death even in its most horrible form. I am so thankful that he had them here as well.
It has been hard on me and my brothers seeing my Dad’s body and mind grow so weak. He was always such a tough and rugged man. He was only five foot four but was as stout as a tree stump. He taught me so much growing up too. He taught me hard work. For most of his days he worked all day as a mechanic only to come home and work in our gardens in the evening. Every spring too my brothers and I would help him chop and stack five cords of wood to heat our house in the winter. After he was hurt and became disabled he taught me patience by letting me help him haul wood, carry fresh water from our spring, and change the tires on his truck. He taught me faith and strength as well. He could have given up on life when his beloved wife lost her own battle with cancer over twenty years ago, but he didn’t. Instead he took care of her in her final years and later took care of his aging Mom in her final years too. He never complained either. He just gave and loved unconditionally. In the end my Dad even taught me about growth and love. He had been raised in a different time when Men were supposed to be strong and not show their emotions. In his last months, though, my Dad outgrew that upbringing. He told me and my brothers again and again what we already knew in our hearts, that he loved us.
Now as I sit here by his bed I can only think of what a good life he has lived and what a good man he has been. I know that God at the end of our days here looks deep in our souls to see the love we have shared, spread, and given to others. I can only pray that one day I may have loved as deeply and as well as my Dad has.
I don’t know how much longer my Dad has now as I write this. It is like his spirit is ready to move on but his body hasn’t gotten the message. I take comfort in knowing, however, that the long and often difficult life he had here was only a day in the eternity of love, joy, peace, happiness, and light that he will be going to.
I love you Dad. I have loved you since the second I was born into this world. I will love you for all the seconds I have left here as well. And in the end we will share our love in Heaven forever.
My Dad died several hours after I finished writing this just after receiving Last Rites. He will be missed and he will be remembered.