Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Gorilla and the Bear

My father was strong until the end. After six years of battling the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, his 87-year-old body finally gave out last Monday.
He was moved into hospice care when he developed abdominal pain and stopped eating a week earlier. I wasn’t there when he experienced that pain, but am told it was hard to watch him moan in agony, unable to describe what he was feeling.
The hospice workers gave him two small plush animals to squeeze while he suffered through the pain – a gorilla and a bear. Two strong animals, they symbolized my dad’s strength of body, spirit and character. He gripped one in each hand until the pain subsided and he slipped into a coma.
His death looked imminent as six of his seven children traveled to be at his bedside. I was the last to arrive. I was racked with guilt over whether to fly to Chicago from D.C. if the chances were good that he’d die before I got there.
But one of my sisters told me he was waiting for me to visit and hear my voice before he could move on. My father was a deeply spiritual and religious man.
I arrived just after midnight Monday morning and spent the night with him, listening to his labored breathing and saying my last goodbyes.
During the day, my mom suggested that we end our constant vigil. She said Dad would not have wanted anyone to watch him die. She knew him best after nearly 62 years of marriage. We agreed with her wishes.
We left for dinner and shortly thereafter he passed.
And there by his bedside were the gorilla and the bear.

Related:

James A. Seitz obituary (Libertyville Funeral Home)

James A. Seitz obituary (Legacy.com)

Alzheimer’s Association (Alz.org)

Seitz Update (June 12, 2016)

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