I am 38 years old, married in Dec. 1985, and have 2 children, ages 8 and 11. I teach high school math and science, but work only occasionally as we are new to this area and I love being at home with the kids. I live in the North Okanagan of British Columbia, Canada.
My father had been retired for 11 years by 1996. He graduated with a degree in Engineering and worked first as an aerospace engineer, then in oil exploration. A highlight of our lives was when we went to NASA in the mid 1960's. Dad had solved a complex communications problem. He could be serious and stubborn, but he loved family and social gatherings, and had a great sense of humour.
In July, 1996 I moved to a new town with my husband and children. My parents had moved to the same town 7 months previous. We left good jobs, a close knit neighborhood, and a supportive church for a new life in a small town. We were concerned with how big the city was getting and wanted a better place to raise the kids. One week later, with unpacked boxes all around me, I was desperate for that wonderful support system that I'd left only 7 days prior.
We had taken the kids to the beach and returned home to find the phone ringing. My cousin had been trying to find us for some time. Mum was at the hospital and something had happened to Dad. I was to get to the hospital immediately. My heart froze because my mother always down played Dad's troubles. My Dad has had heart trouble since he was in his twenties. He was now 63 and I thought he must have had a major heart attack.
I was at the hospital minutes later and Mum said that Dad had a hemorrhage and that they were getting ready to medivac him. While I called my brothers in the city and tried to take in all that had happened, we were called in to see the doctor. He took us into a private office and explained that the bleed was so bad that they had cancelled the Life Flight. My Dad had had a cerebral hemorrhage from an aneurysm, was in a deep coma, on life support, and not expected to make it through the night. I asked to see the x -rays and was horrified at the amount of his brain that was saturated.
The neurosurgeon was very compassionate, but he made it pretty clear that there was no point in continuing with the life support. Mum and I were in shock. This had all taken place in the space of a few short hours and now we were being asked to unplug Dad. We couldn't do it. We felt we had to give Dad some chance to come back. They agreed to give us some time, and moved him to intensive care. We talked to Dad and asked him, "Dad,can you hear me? Squeeze my hand if you can hear me." He remained motionless.
During the night my younger brother drove up and my Dad's twin sister got on a plane as soon as possible. She arrived the next afternoon. My older brother was on holiday and I spent half the night trying to track him down through one province and two states with no success.
The next morning we arrived at the hospital to find no improvement in Dad. He did not respond to any stimuli and we were convinced then that he had really died the day before. We waited until the evening when my Aunt arrived. We said prayers in a circle with Dad, and then we gave the O.K. to withdraw life support. I think I expected him to breath on his own, but it was not to be. The father that I loved was gone so fast that I just couldn't take it all in.
A lot of the details of those 24 hours are fuzzy. I know that people arrived, but I can't remember exactly when. I know that a Lutheran pastor from what would be our new church came in to the hospital to pray with us, but I really don't know if it was he, or the church chaplain who was with us at the end.
The one clear memory of that time is arriving home from the beach to see my son's baseball hat hanging on the screen door. Mum and Dad had stopped by on their way out for a drive to drop it off. My son had forgotten it at their place a couple of days earlier. It is forever burned into my memory as a farewell symbol.
Over a year has passed since that horrible day. My husband was afraid I was going to break down. We had no friends yet, a new home, unpacked boxes, and my husband hadn't even started his new job yet. I felt like I was drowning. He took me to the doctor after I had gone almost 72 hours without sleep. (As tired as I was, my brain refused to shut down) I told the doctor I was afraid I was going to fall apart and he told me that I already had! (It's funny now, but it sure wasn't before.) I was able to help my mother with the arrangements after the sleeping pills helped me get a couple of nights sleep.
Despite the pain and grief there are a few things I am thankful for. I'm thankful that my older brother was contacted and was here for the funeral. I'm thankful that God had directed our path so that I was there for my mother. We had not intended to move to the same town, and even when it turned out that we would be in the same region, we were looking for a place in a different town. It turned out that the best rental for us was located a minute away from my Mum's. I'm thankful that my husbands job has worked out extremely well and that we have now bought and settled into our home. I never want to move again! I'm thankful that Mum was driving the car when Dad's aneurysm burst, and I'm thankful that she was able to get help from others.
I'm very thankful that this support page exists. I wish I had this knowledge before. There were some signs that all was not well with Dad. He had a few small seizures starting in April. He subsequently had an MRI and an angiogram (?)and was told that the results were excellent. He didn't have a brain tumor (his main worry) and although there was evidence of a small bleed, his body appeared to be taking care of it. No aneurysm was found. I think the one that killed him must have been hidden in the tests, or grew quickly. He had 2 more small seizures on the Sunday before he died but the hospital thought it was a reaction to his new medication. He was told not to worry and to see his doctor the next week. He never made it. I miss him terribly.