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Deciding to Go Home

Updated on March 28, 2013

Choosing His Own Destiny

"It's time to go sweetie," My dad looked at me, smiling. He reached his deeply bruised yet surprisingly strong hand to mine and squeezed.

"OK dad, I'll talk to the nurses." I tried to smile, feeling relieved yet desperately sad. I added, "But you will need to talk to the doctor yourself!" I squeezed his hand and got up from the side of the bed; looking at him, I noticed the instant sense of peace he now exuded.

I'd always been so restless during our many trips to the hospital; visiting for a little, then walking down to the solarium then back for a bit; then off to the first floor for coffee and then back down there for lunch or dinner, with short visits in between.

But during this trip, I had been more settled. Dad and I had sat and talked for hours, about everything. He'd even divulged some of his deeper thoughts, stories and information I'd never heard in my 46 years. Gems and trinkets he gave me like parting gifts.

Although the prognosis from the doctor in the ER had been brutally grim (and I wished I'd been there at midnight to give that man a piece of my mind), by the next morning, our regular doctor, with an actual bedside manner and true relationship with us, was infinitely more optimistic.

This was the all too familiar schizophrenia I was used to. Today, death was imminent - oh wait, no dad would be around a while longer - yes life was on the menu today. I admired this
emotional flexibility my father had showed me so many times. But each time the tide changed, it took a piece of me with it, wore me down, my nerves and body were wearing thin.

We were all optimism, plans for the future, dreams full speed ahead. Then, he experienced a severe stroke in the hospital, and even after leaving the ICU, the road to recovery looked too long and laborious and my father was unwilling to endure it again.

The hospital is a fickle war machine with troops of professionals and students of all kinds - marching in and out following all sorts of unpredictable schedules. Poking, prodding, asking the same medical history questions over and over and over and over again. I wanted to scream at them - read the god damned file! Of course, dad's "file" was actually an over-sized, ring binder, too full to stay closed anymore.

But today, there would be none of that. We would be going home.

I went to find his nurse-of-the-shift. They were all terrific and loved my dad. "He's such a gentleman and so polite," they remarked to me. This made me proud to be his daughter.

"Excuse me," I said with an authority learned from years of advocating for my dad. There was never a good time to talk to anyone as they were all insanely busy.

"Yes," Susan looked up brightly from the flip down writing surface located in the hall outside the
patients door rooms.

"I'm Len Whitings daughter." I smiled, even as my voice cracked, "My father wants to stop his medicines and go home."

This was not the first time I had told a nurse this. A year and a half ago I had told the nurse to stop dad's medications. Then I got a call later at home that my father had changed his mind because he had a million reasons to live. And live he had - for over a year. Long enough to get well, live independently, buy a little red sports car, and go to Ireland with his very dear lady friend.

But this time was different. I hoped. No, I didn't hope.

Today I had walked into dad's room while he was dutifully doing his lung exercises. He laboriously put the apparatus in his mouth, inhaling as best he could, watching the little plastic ball rise and fall in the tube with his breath. I had stood right in front of him, waiting silently for his attention, but he never noticed me. He just continued with his exercise, hoping it would become easier, although it never did. When he did finally looked up to see me, there had been no smile - just a frown of frustration and futility.

"Ohhhh," Nurse Susan said, understanding what I meant. "I'll be right down." She paused, "Are you OK?"

I smiled with as much cheerfulness as I could muster and nodded as the tears rolled down my
cheeks. By this time, I was far beyond the point of caring who the hell saw me cry. We
were, after all, in a hospital. People had cried all the time when I'd watched General Hospital!

She patted me on the shoulder, "This is a good thing you're doing." I just nodded, feeling like a little girl for a moment, glad that someone outside the tight duo of dad and me, could see that too.

After a trip to the bathroom to get my grownup self back, I walked confidently back into my dad's room, thankful there was no roommate to deal with.

"The nurse will be right in."

My father's face beamed. I smiled, the tears just streaming down my face again. I hugged his tired, worn body and kissed him.

He breathlessly, silently mouthed, "Thank you!" his glistening eyes with love.

And we waited, holding hands, simultaneously experiencing relief and grief. Together.


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    • mbwalz profile imageAUTHOR

      MaryBeth Walz 

      5 years ago from Maine

      Thank you GlstngRosePetals! I guess if I'd had to think ahead, I never would have thought about it. What was most important to me was that I was the agent of my dad's wishes. And you just do what you need to do at the time, one day at a time. Appreciate the up vote!!

    • GlstngRosePetals profile image


      5 years ago from Wouldn't You Like To Know

      That is one of the most heart wrenching feelings to ever have and yet you still have to have the strength to keep your chin up in the darkest of moments. You wrote a very inspirational piece that has touched me deeply and I hope I have the strength and courage you have showed when the time for me to do the same comes. I always hope that it won't but the reality is that it will and I will never be prepared for it. Voted up!!

    • mbwalz profile imageAUTHOR

      MaryBeth Walz 

      8 years ago from Maine

      Thank you breonna! Although I miss that man sooo very much, it was a honor to help him like this. I sure hope someone's there to do this for me when it's time for me to make my transition! :)

      Just because you love them doesn't give you the right to hang-on,

    • breonna-11 profile image


      8 years ago from warren michican

      am so sosososososoososossoosooso soryy abiot that wybo

    • mbwalz profile imageAUTHOR

      MaryBeth Walz 

      8 years ago from Maine

      Thanks philip. I'm so sorry for your loss. I felt similarly when my mom passed away 10 years ago. These transitions are difficult and slow. One day your fine and the next a scent or song smacks you up side the head (as we say here in Maine - lol) and the emotions can catch you off guard and overwhelm you!

      Writing has always helped, and I always hope that somehow my writing can help others put their finger on that little nagging feeling with no name.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • profile image

      philip carey 61 

      8 years ago

      My father died last year around this time. I felt like there was a part of me that didn't like a part of him, and a different part of me that loved a different part of him. I tried to build the relationship on the latter, although memory has a way of interfering. I realize that we live in world of "both/and" and not "either/or". This was a powerful piece. Thanks for sharing, and also for stopping by to read some of my stuff.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      8 years ago

      Very heart tugging. This is real and real writing. It's hard but you tell it beautifully. Thank you very much.

    • cheaptrick profile image


      8 years ago from the bridge of sighs

      Good for you mbwalz.I could tell how capable you are just by the expression on your face.

      Touched me.Thanks


    • mbwalz profile imageAUTHOR

      MaryBeth Walz 

      8 years ago from Maine

      Thank you again Sage! My dad and I were very close all my life. I miss him so much but he really appreciated me and that made it easier. My older brother is just not equipped emotionally to deal with this sort of thing even though he loved our dad deeply too.

    • Sage Williams profile image

      Sage Williams 

      8 years ago

      My heart goes out to you. How difficult this must have been for you. I can't even imagine. Deep conflicting emotions and yet you still had the courage to stand by your dad to see him through.

      I can't even imagine. You are so very strong with a beautiful heart.

      A gamut of emotions of all sorts that you handled with endearing compassion right through to the end. I admire your strength.

      I'm finding it difficult to really say what I'd like to say. Tears are now in my way.

      You will touch many lives,


    • mbwalz profile imageAUTHOR

      MaryBeth Walz 

      8 years ago from Maine

      Thank you again Dolores. Sure is weird how we can feel both so genuinely at the same moment.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      You wrote this story so beautifully. It's odd how grief, or impending grief can be such a mixture of sadness and joy, anger and tenderness. You expressed it so well.


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