My Daddy died peacefully on March 14, 2018 in his home of 46 years with his family around him. He was 87 years old. A 14 day vigil came to an end with his final breath and our tears that followed. My hero was gone. It’s strange to suddenly realize that with the death of both parents, you are now “next in line” for the inevitable.
The 14 days I was by his side proved to be more emotionally and physically exhausting than I could have imagined. Every day I was sure would be his last. We all stayed nearby lest we not be there when God brought him home. He died as he lived his life. He was a retired Infantry Lieutenant Colonel, having served 22 years in the Army. Prior to this he served 4 years as a Marine during the Korean War. He was the toughest man I knew. He completed the Army’s most demanding training and served two combat tours in Vietnam, earning numerous medals for valor in combat. This same toughness continued to the last. His once physically strong body wasted away to a mere shell. Yet, somehow (some reason?) he held on. My brothers and sister lovingly told him it was okay to let go and be with God and Mama just in case he needed that permission to leave us.
What do you say or do during these times? We did all we could to keep him comfortable and Hospice was a God-send. I found myself standing at the head of his bed, stroking his bald head, and saying “We are right here with you, Daddy.” I said this over and over. I wanted to be sure he knew he was not alone. The words came so naturally, without even thinking. As I continued to say these words, it hit me that these exact words, “We are right here with you” were the new brand statement for the hospital system where I worked. Now I understand their true impact. They came from a place deep inside me. They will forevermore carry a deeper, more personal meaning. They no longer are simply well- meaning words to be read or spoken. They are now very personal to me, and because they are, they have become very real to me.
As you care for your patients, I hope these words also become personal to you and subsequently the impact you have on their lives even greater. May they always be a reminder of the difference you make in the lives of those you serve. Thank you for being right there with them when they need you the most.
Andy Lamb, MD