Good morning, all! Well, the last two weeks have been tough and heart wrenching. My step-father (a.k.a., my bonus dad) Jon passed away last Wednesday. It still seems so strange to say that. Unimaginable, even. The words catch in my throat, because it just doesn’t even seem possible.
Even more unimaginable is that this all started with a urinary tract infection. Even now, I keep asking myself, “How can that be?!” I’ve had at least two UTIs in my lifetime. I didn’t even go to the doctor, and I certainly didn’t feel it necessary to go to the hospital. I just loaded up on cranberry extract pills, D-mannose, and Vitamin C, along with lots of water, and they were gone the next day.
So on April 15, when Jon was first rushed to the hospital for severe confusion, inability to walk, inability to understand verbal commands, etc., UTI was the last thing I ever would have thought of. But as it turns out, UTIs can be very serious in older adults, and they can cause severe confusion, inability to walk, and many other symptoms like that, and especially in those with pre-existing medical conditions like Jon’s Parkinson’s Disease.
But still in my mind, it was just a UTI. Sure, it caused strange symptoms in him that I had never heard of, but at least it was just a UTI. They’d get him fixed right up and send him home, right? Well, Jon spent several weeks in the hospital and the Senior Care rehab healing and regaining motor skills, although he never regained his ability to walk. Then arrangements and preparations were made to bring him home. Special equipment was purchased for home use now that Jon was non-ambulatory, and he finally went home.
We all breathed a sigh of relief that that long ordeal was over, and Jon was finally back home where he should be. Mom, Rod (my brother) and Jon began to settle into their new “normal,” learning how to live eveyday life with a non-ambulatory person in a very non-wheelchair-friendly house, but they were somehow making it work. But that new normal only lasted for five days, because on the evening of the fifth day, Jon began to complain about serious pain, and his blood oxygen level fell to 90.
Once again, he was rushed to the emergency room. The diagnosis: UTI…again. I was so frustrated on Jon’s behalf that he was going to have to go through all of that again — hospital, rehab, etc. But in my mind, I once again thought, “Well, at least it’s just a UTI.”
Then I got the text from my brother: “The doctor has told [Mom] that IF Jon makes it, he will have to go to a nursing home.”
IF Jon makes it.
It’s just two letters — I…F — and yet that one tiny word fell on my chest like a ton of bricks. IF he makes it? What the heck does the doctor mean “IF”? Is he some kind of moron? It’s just a UTI!! Did this idiot just get out of med school yesterday?
But as it turns out, this time it wasn’t just a UTI. It was an incredibly serious UTI that had caused sepsis (blood poisoning). Plus, he had pneumonia. And blood clots in his lungs. All of that, combined with his pre-existing Parkinson’s, meant that the chances of him pulling through this time were low.
None of us could believe it. Just a few days earlier, he was being released from rehab to go home. And now…this.
All of his kids were here — his four kids plus his three bonus kids. And from his very first night in the hospital on April 15 through the end, Jon didn’t spend one single minute without at least one family member by his side. At least one family member slept in his room to be with him each night, and during the day there were almost always at least two, if not more, family members with him.
And it was during his last two days in the hospital that we were all given a most beautiful gift. Because of his Parkinson’s, Jon’s mind hadn’t been completely clear in months…maybe longer. And even though he could speak, he wasn’t easy to understand because he had a hard time forming thoughts, and he would hallucinate, and he would speak very softly so that it was impossible to understand. That had become Jon’s normal. But during his last two full days in the hospital, Jon’s mind became amazingly clear, his voice became strong, and he talked, and talked, and talked, like we hadn’t heard him do in a very long time. He told stories, and carried on conversations. Those two days were an amazingly beautiful gift.
The next day, the confusion and inability to speak returned, and Jon was moved to hospice where he spent the final week of his life surrounded by his family members. He never spoke another word after he was moved to hospice, and almost the entire week he was there, he was sleeping. But even so, I know that he knew he was surrounded with family members who loved him dearly.
He went to be with the Lord at about 11:30am last Wednesday, and we had a beautiful funeral service for him on Friday.
And even through all of that, it’s still unimaginable. I can’t fully wrap my head around the fact that he’s actually gone. It’s hard to imagine walking into Mom & Jon’s home and not seeing Jon sitting there in his chair, looking at me with those joy-filled eyes and that big smile that lets me know he’s genuinely delighted to see me. It’s gut-wrenching that just 13 years ago, I said goodbye to my daddy, and now much too soon, here I am having to say goodbye to my sweet bonus dad.
But this is our new normal. I hate it. I don’t want this new normal. But life doesn’t often give us a choice, so we do the best that we can, knowing that time does, and will, ease the pain. My life is forever changed having known Jon, and having had the opportunity to be his bonus daughter for the last 11.5 years. What an amazing man he was!
And now, today it’s time for me to get back to work. I don’t want to. I haven’t had any interest in working on projects for the last two weeks. But I know Jon would not approve of me sitting in bed crying and doing absolutely nothing for a moment longer. So today, I’m back to work, back to everyday life, and back to this strange, cruel and unwelcome new “normal.”
P.S. Thank you so much for all of your kind comments and emails over the last two weeks. I felt very blessed to have so many people praying for my family and sending sweet words of encouragement.