From time to time on this blog, I give you some insight into my life outside the radio station.  For those of you who have been following it, or following me on Facebook, you’ll know that there have been some things going on personally that have caused me to be off from work from time to time, more so especially in the past year.

That’s why I wasn’t at the “Hack To The Future 20th Anniversary Show” at the Grove of Anaheim on February 22nd.

As much as I wanted to be there to see the result of months of work and planning, I couldn’t be.

I was with my father, at his bedside at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange.

My father passed away on Sunday, February 23rd at 9:15am.

I want to thank each and every person who has written to me, texted me, emailed me, tweeted me, or posted on my Facebook page.  I am truly overwhelmed by the love and support I have received. There’s no way I can thank you all personally, but please know I appreciate it so much.

I write this blog to remind each and every one of you what is REALLY important, because sometimes we forget.

Almost two years ago, when my mother-in-law, Margaret, passed away, I made a pledge to remember that.  In general, I’ve kept that pledge, but it took a dear friend, Sheron Bellio, to remind me again that ‘you never get time back with the ones you love, so ditch the stuff that doesn’t matter and be where you need to be.’

That’s what I’ve been doing for the last six months.

As we get older, we see our parents getting older and your brain realizes the inevitability of what that means but your heart is another story.

I’m the youngest of three children, one of two daughters, and all daughters are ‘Daddy’s Little Girls’ for life, of course from the time they are little until they get married and beyond.

I’m also the only child that had to move from NY to Southern California with my parents at the age of 15.  My brother had already moved out here to California years before to attend college, my sister stayed behind in New York.  So my bond with my parents was a little different from that of my brother and sister.  I’m also the child that lives closest to my parents, and with the most flexibility, so whenever there was something to be done, it usually fell to me to do it…not that I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, I’m a bit of a control freak in that way.  I’m also no shrinking violent, so when something had to get done, I was the loudmouth to make sure it got done.

My father has been a strong man all his life, here’s a photo of him from back in his Air Force days.

And a photo of my mom and dad when they got married.

It wasn’t until about 10 years ago when he first needed to have back surgery that I first saw him as vulnerable.  It terrified me.   But he came through that surgery just fine and went on for several years with little to no pain at all and went about his life as normal.  But a few years ago, the back pain resurfaced in an excruciating way and we were told he had degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis and there was nothing more that could be done, his doctor said he would have to live with it and manage the pain.

He also would get very winded when he’d climb the stairs.  His lung doctor said he had something called interstitial lung disease, a progressive scarring of the lung tissue due to sometimes an unknown cause.  It could be that he smoked for many years before quitting 35+ years ago….it could be from some kind of chemical he was exposed to while he was in the service.  We just don’t know, it didn’t manifest itself until the last few years.  All we knew at the time it was diagnosed was that it was there and while the doctor said it wouldn’t get better, we could only wait and see how much worse it would get.

In the last year, after several fights with doctors, my father had a new back surgery that virtually wiped out his back pain, the only pain he had after the most recent surgery could be controlled with mild painkillers. He went about months of physical therapy to learn to walk again, and was doing really well, but in the process hit several road blocks, infections, lung issues, etc, that slowed his progress.

This is when I first heard the words Pulmonary Fibrosis, a lung condition that when you look it up, is absolutely heartbreaking.  I knew things were bad, but I was still hopeful.

A few weeks ago my mother was at her wit’s end because my father, who was now in a new rehab facility after a stay in the hospital, was declining, very tired, not eating, not participating in physical therapy.  I spent several days down there getting in people’s faces to find out why concerns weren’t being addressed…by the time I left, he looked better, said he felt better and I was confident that he was once again on the upswing.  I had even taken Princess to see him at the rehab facility, as I had before, and she has always proven to be good medicine for him, he loved her and she loved him.

Then came Monday, February 17th, and my mother called to say he was again in the hospital because his oxygen level was very low.

I spoke to him on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and he was in pretty good spirits, even though he was on NO food or water by mouth, and he was on a high amount of oxygen at the hospital in order to breathe comfortably.

On Wednesday, he had a swallow test at the hospital that indicated that when he swallowed, he was aspirating, things were going down the wrong pipe and ending up in his lungs which was causing an infection that made his condition even worse.

I went down to the hospital on Thursday and when I saw him, I was shocked.  When he entered the hospital early Monday, he was 170 pounds.  On Thursday, he was 140.  It was heartbreaking.  Deep in my heart, I knew that he would not be leaving the hospital to come home.

The only effective way to stop him from aspirating, and give him enough nutrition to hopefully get stronger was to insert a feeding tube directly into his stomach.  The procedure only took about 30 minutes and went well, and we were hopeful.  His first tube feeding went well and we looked forward to him looking stronger the next morning.

But when we saw him on Friday he was not well, the doctor came in to see him, and spoke with us out in the hall and was very frank saying that his lung condition was ‘grave’ and because of that, and his high heart rate, he was more likely to go into cardiac arrest.

Apparently, this is what sometimes happens to those suffering from pulmonary fibrosis.  They can go along for awhile seemingly unchanged, then suddenly hit a downward spiral quickly, that they can’t recover from.

The decisions made by my family and I from that moment on are private, but I will tell you that our only concern was for his comfort and well being.  He was in a hospital he trusted, with a staff of extraordinary people who treated him with care and respect at every turn.

From Friday until Sunday, our family lived at the hospital.  My sister flew in from NY late Friday night/ early Saturday morning.  When she arrived at 2am he was awake and saw her and joked with her in a slow, tired tone, ‘Hey….how did you get here so fast?’

We spent the night in his room, talking to him until he was no longer conscious and talking to him even after that.  My brother, sister and I took turns holding his hand, telling stories, confessing long ago forgotten fibs we told as children, and took turns trying to catch an hour of sleep in one of the hospital waiting rooms.  I believe that each and every one of us had a moment with him to say the things we needed to say in private.  I can truly say that nothing was left unsaid and he knew that we were all there.

On Saturday, we asked for a priest to come in to give him Last Rights, (I'm sorry, "Last Rites", according to puckerbutt listener Mary S. I spelled it wrong...I guess in my grief I forgot to check that I was using the proper spelling) because we know that is what he would have wanted.  As hard as it was to do so, as hard as it was to hear, we did it for him.

Sunday morning, my brother and sister went to my parent’s home to shower, I was reading next to his bed, holding his hand, as my husband and my mother dozed on the couch in the room, when I noticed his once very rhythmic breathing had slowed.  I stood up, and saw that he was taking about one breath a minute.  I called my mother and my husband over and the three of us held his hands and watched as he took a few last deep breaths and then suddenly nothing.

No matter how much you prepare for someone’s death, no matter how inevitable you know it is, no matter how peaceful the death is, the pain you feel at that moment can’t be explained other then you feel your heart has been ripped out of your chest.  To know your loved one isn’t in pain anymore doesn’t help ease the pain you feel for your loss.

While I am grateful that he no longer has to struggle to take each breath, I can’t help but feel broken, lost and unable to make sense of the world, much less function in it.

While I’ve been very busy in the days after his death with planning memorials, helping my mother with the things that need to get done, you question everything: Did I make the right decisions?  Should I have done something else?  Should we have sent him to a different rehab facility, gotten third and forth opinions?  I’m not sure when the questions will stop, or if they will ever.  And now, with many of the plans made and every thing else set in motion, I’m terrified of feeling the full impact of his loss when I’m alone and having nothing to occupy my time.

All I can do is take it one hour, one day at a time and know that because I’m a part of him, he is always with me.

So please, take the time to spend it with your loved ones, say everything you need to say, don’t wait and whenever you can, take a moment and remember that in the end, nothing else matters except the ones you love.  Be Where You Need To Be.