Many of you know that my father passed away on December 17th, 2013 after a very short, two month non-battle with stage IV cancer. He did not want to go to battle. At 80, he accepted his illness and lived his last two months the same way he lived his life. He was stoic, decisive, and stubborn. He was independent, courageous, and strong. He did not want sympathy and he consoled others. He was a kidder, and he made others feel better by making light of his illness.
Dad had extensive cancer that left him weak, tired, and sick almost every day near the end– and yet, he did not complain. Not once. In fact, he did the opposite and reassured everyone that he was alright and NOT in pain. He was fine, thank you.
My father passed away exactly two weeks after I arrived at his home. And I feel like he taught me more in those two weeks than maybe my entire life. It’s as if I saw my father for the first time — and what I saw was a proud and strong man who had independence and toughness beyond measure.
Dad got up and out of bed every day, right up to the end. The day before he died, he was standing and talking. I said he didn’t go into battle against his cancer, but it seemed like he was battling for independence and dignity with every breath he took. He battled for control and repeatedly said he didn’t want to “be a burden.” For this reason, he wanted to die. He prayed to die. Not from pain, but because this end of life business with all the attention and loss of independence did not suit him.
On Monday December 16th, dad sat up in bed and said he wanted to go to a residential hospice facility TODAY. This had always been an option, N.C. Little Hospice already had his name, and we were prepared to stay or go. It was up to him. Dad was transported within a few hours of his decision, and he blew his neighbor a kiss as he left.
The next day at around 11am, the nurses bathed and shaved him and put him in comfy pajamas, and then with his three children at his side, he died one hour later at 12:04pm.
I like to think that getting bathed and shaved in bed and NOT being in control of his life was more than he could take — he had enough, and wasn’t doing THAT again. I like to think dad was still in charge at the end, and decided NO MORE.
Dad was in the hospice facility for less than 24 hours, and he skipped right over the sometimes lengthy “active dying” stage which was so difficult to watch with my mom — for this I am grateful.
We discovered later that “I love you too” were his last words to his three children.
I am home now with my family for Christmas, which is what dad wanted for all of us. But we’ll be going back soon to honor and celebrate his life.
I thank you all, my dear family and friends, for your thoughtfulness and support. I feel you, and I love you back.
Dad loved you too.
Gary Dwane Nelson
June 5th, 1933 — December 17th, 2013
Visitation 10:00 am
Celebration of Life 11:00 am
Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
Living Spirit United Methodist Church
4501 Bloomington Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55407