On this Valentine’s Day, I sit beside my father’s hospital bed at 3:30 a.m. He sleeps restlessly through the pain in an incoherent state of tolerance. I put my hand on his hand, and without missing a beat, in his sleep, he whispers, “I love Yaaahz.” He softly winces and moans then becomes quiet again.
In the middle of the family room, he is bundled under layers and layers of blankets, hand-stitched quilts, and crocheted throws, with his left foot hanging out of the covers on purpose. I’m sitting on a folding chair next to his bed with my own layers of pajamas, a sweater, and a vest. We are both warm and uncomfortably cozy, under the circumstances. Through his irregular breathing, wincing and moaning, whether asleep or lucid, he continues to whisper messages of love: “I love you, oh how I love you.” Moans of pain, his cough, and the sweet sound of his love-whispers become a new kind of clock, marking time as it passes in the middle of the night.
He wakes himself up with a loud, grimacing noise. I put my hand on his shoulder and he quiets down. Gently, the sound of the Home Oxygen Concentrator and a loving presence, rocks him back to his shallow rest, but not before he sends out more love, “Ahhh… I loves ya, Jules.”
“I love you too, Dad.” I quietly reply.
In the darkness, with the dim light of my computer, I reflect on what a beautiful Valentine this is. I am soaking in the bittersweet, merciful love of his last days. I am communing in the grace-filled resonance as he creates discordant music with his breath. This love is infinitely real and deep, delivered in a delirious container of pain. The benevolent moment is so precious.
A whimper, then a loud groan brings me back into the moment. It’s time to roll over. We work together to find a comfortable position on his left side, prop pillows in the perfect places, and rearrange the covers. “How’s that, dad?”
“Oh, its good… its good until its not,” he says and quietly drifts back into the feverish abyss of his restless reality. The whispers, moans, and cough continue into the early morning hours. And time passes…
He wakes again with an unpleasant howl, “OH-Oooohhh-OH!” then quietly, “I love you, honey.”
“I love you too, Dad. Can I get you something for the pain?” I ask.
“Oh, no… I’m okay. It hurts more everywhere than anywhere.” He answers in his kind way, then turns to me, “Why don’t you go lay down in the recliner and try to get some sleep?”
I reply, “I’m okay, Dad. I’m sitting here writing love letters on my computer.”
“Ah… that’s good! Real, real good,” He replies with enthusiasm, “I LOVE YOU!”
“I know, Dad. I love you too.” I whisper in gratitude. And time passes…