Tell Him You Love Him

By Gary • January 23, 2015

My dad always made it a point to end our phone conversations with "I love you and I miss you." (I moved a few states away from home soon after I got out on my own.)

When I was younger it bothered me, but I got over it. He was diagnosed with terminal dementia about ten years ago, and his health and his cognitive capacity started failing pretty quickly. Still, every time, "I love you and I miss you." "Love you and miss you too, dad."

A few years ago, at the end of a year where he'd had several extended stays in the hospital several times already, I finally got the call I'd been waiting for. I'd talked to him a few days before he went into the ER, "Bye son, I love you and I miss you." He'd gotten to the point where he occasionally would mistake me for someone else, but damned if he never once forgot to sign off with I love you and I miss you.

This time Dad had gone in again; they thought it was pancreatitis, but weren't really sure. Whatever it was, it was looking pretty bad, and I'd better get there soon. I was on a plane the next morning and at the hospital by the afternoon. He was on a respirator, oxygen, and because of the pain he was on a high dose of continuous morphine that kept him basically unconscious.

After about a day his liver shut down, and the rest of his organs cascaded. He wasn't coming out of the hospital, and he wasn't going to wake back up. They had to stopped feeding him intravenously for some reason, and all that was keeping him alive was the oxygen. Mom and my sisters were there, but they weren't able to bring up the discussion about what we had to do. I made the call, we were pulling the plug.

We were there with him as he died. His breath slowed down over about 15 minutes, stopped, his heart stopped, and then there was a doctor who called time of death. We sat with him for a bit, and then it was time to go. I asked for a few more minutes alone with his body. Before I left, I put my hand on his chest and told him "Bye dad, I love you and I miss you."

Those were his last words to me, and they were my last words to him. They were true then, and will remain true: I love him, and I miss him. And now, I wish I'd told him that a lot more back when I had could have. I recommend you do the same while you still have the chance.

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