After three weeks of sleepless, harrowing nights, when every sound made me start and reach for the phone, the call finally came. At 9:52pm EST on November 25, 2013 I got the call from the hospital telling me the Bumper's dad had passed away. I knew it was coming, and still I was not prepared. In spite of myself I expected him to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat and pull through. I am still expecting to get a phone call or a text message from him telling me that somehow it was all a mistake. I keep pinching myself to be sure this isn't some kind of deranged nightmare. It is all too real. Yet it is quite surreal, and I am told the way I am feeling is quite normal. I know the people who are telling me this mean to be reassuring, I do not feel reassured. I feel sad, angry, relieved, cold, empty and hurt all at once.
The funeral was Monday December 2, 2013. I did not realize, until it happened to me, how hollow the words people say at funerals seem. I must admit I was in shock then, and the shock has not worn off. Underneath is a vault of tears I have yet to open. I know right now I need to be strong, for the Bumper, and to get through the legal aftermath. My strength comes from the peace I gained on Sunday November 24, 2013. Let me explain.
On Friday November 22, 2013, the hospital called me and said if I wanted to visit with Matt that the coming weekend would be a good time. This announcement filled me with a quaking dread, I wasn't sure I wanted to see him sick, but the hospital kept saying they were trying everything they could and he was still not responding. Saturday proved to be impossible, so I called the hospital on Sunday morning to check to see if he had improved; he had not, in fact he had gotten worse. The Bumper's dad, the hospital told me, was going into liver failure and his kidneys and pancreas were not far behind. The settled it, off we went. Nana, the Bumper, and I drove the six hours to the hospital where the Bumper's dad was being treated.
I had been warned about what to expect when I got to the Medical Intensive Care Unit. I had been told he could not speak, and was in and out of consciousness. On the drive down I wrote him a letter of all the things I wanted to say to him: how I felt about the verbal abuse, the separation, the custody agreement, his illness, everything. I had been warned. I thought I was prepared. I wasn't
The Bumper's dad lay in a bed swollen and jaundiced -- he was the color of a dirty yellow tennis ball, where the whites of his eyes should have been were filled in with blood, and he could do barely more than moan. There was however light in his eyes, his mind was still there, trapped in a body that was slowly failing, I could see his pain and distress I immediately went to him and grasped one of his hands with mine, and placed my other hand on his chest where I could feel his rapid heartbeat. All I had written, except the last two lines, seemed pointless. I knew what I had to say and I said it.
"I forgive you," I said, "I forgive you for the past eighteen month and for everything that led to our separation."
The Bumper's dad closed his eyes, and sighed, his heartbeat slowed and when he reopened his eyes there was a calm and peace that was not there before. Not willing to simply leave it at that I asked him to forgive me if I had in anyway harmed him. The Bumper's did lightly squeezed my hand and I took that for absolution. Peace settled upon the both of us and we were at ease with one another again,
For the next three hours we stayed with our hands together. We reminisced as best we could about the good times we had shared,. I sang him all of his favorite hymns and a few of our favourite songs. A news story came on about the town where we got engaged and the Bumper's dad shook his body as best he could to point it out to me. I am also confident he made his peace with God because he allowed the hospital chaplain to pray with us and when I asked if he wanted a priest to come and give him the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, he gave me a thumb up. I sat with him until the anaesthesiologist came to begin the last treatment the hospital was going to try. Before I left the room I leaned over and one last time told him I had forgiven him, whispered 'I love you' and reminded him of God's love for him. I refused to say good bye instead I said:
"Fare the well, be at peace and if you need to go, rest assured that I will do my best to let the Bumper know how much her dad loved her."
We did not get back home until two in the morning on Monday. At 7:00pm the hospital called and a teleconference was held with the rest of the family (I was unable to go back to the hospital because of the distance), The treatment they had tried the night before was not working, and the hospital had run out of things to try except to make him comfortable. We agreed to let nature take its course and later that night I got the final call.
I will always be grateful that God gave me the chance to reconcile with the Bumper's dad. I am glad I took the chance when it was offered. I can now look my daughter in the eye and share the good things about him without bitterness or feeling false. I cam mourn with out guilt. I take comfort in the look of peace the Bumper's dad had on his face when I left him that night. The tears will come, but for now Peace sustains me.