My father passed away at home on October 22, 2018 at the age of 87 after a short bout with lung cancer that was diagnosed before reaching the mid point of 2018. I remember it was during the summer when I had gotten a call from a medical personnel, in the middle of a recording session with a co-worker, informing and confirming about his cancer. My mom very briefly mentioned about it a couple of months prior, but to be honest, I wasn't sure if she misheard it as she was not fluent at all in english. My dad also suffered from diabetes for about a decade, if not longer. The onset of gangrene began earlier this year with two of his middle toes slowly decaying. The hospice nurse became aware, on the last week before his death, that his death was imminent as his middle two toes has spread to three one day and then all five a couple of days later. I was told that he was going to pass either in a couple of days, over the weekend, but will not last no more than a week.
My dad was an avid drinker his whole life. While he stopped drinking Black Label whiskey and sake long ago, his beer of choice in the last decade or so has been Bud Light. However, as a smoker, he stopped smoking about 25 to 30 years ago, but he used to smoke carton after carton of the gold Marlboro incessantly. To this day, I don't know the methods of how he and my mom quit smoking. His death certificate stated that his immediate cause of death were failure to thrive, protein-calorie malnutrition and anorexia, all from the effects of cancer. While the time of death from the hospice nurse was at 3:20 pm, I remember getting off work around 2:30 pm and started heading towards the bus stop to get to the next job by 3:15 pm. I turned off airplane mode so the phone can receive messages, if there were any. Then a text message from an unknown number that I did not save came through:
Hello. This is the hospice nurse. I came to visit your father today. Looks more weak and tired. We turned him to left side and noted wounds to right side around leg area. Was unable to get a blood pressure reading but he is still breathing heavily. I told your mom to call me if he stops breathing. Thank you.
The hospice nurse usually gets to the apartment at 11:00 am and stays for at least an hour, but depending on the situation, it may last up to two hours. I figured some time has passed since she sent her text. As I got near the bus stop, I saw the bus I needed to get to work, but I didn't rush to get it nor did I attempt to get on the bus as that text I received from the hospice nurse told me that today was not going to be any other day. In that instant, I knew I had to call home to not only hear from mom, but to also know the current condition of my dad. When mom picked up the phone, I asked if she was okay and of course, if dad was okay too. She said, in her Asian voice, that she was okay and told me to hold on while she go check on dad as she did not check on him for awhile.
While the bus I needed drove off, I waited several minutes to hear back from mom. Then my mom came back to the phone crying uncontrollably to tell me to quickly come home. After hanging up with her, I started to speed walk towards the redline train which was a little bit of a distance from the bus stop. Once I got there, I called the nurse that texted me earlier today. She said that she was not currently at the apartment and was about 30 minutes away as was I. I told her that it was best to head there as soon as she can. During the ride home, I texted my boss at the job I was heading to that most likely I may not be there, but he already knew what was going on beforehand and had let me know that it was all good. After the text exchange, my eyes started to tear up... Mainly because of the support from I've been getting from both of my job, but also from the shock my mom was dealing with.
The nurse and I practically got there at the same time. She was walking into the apartment as I was getting off of the elevator. Once she got to dad, that's when she announced the time of death. While I was hugging and consoling my mom, the nurse started to clean his body and asked if we chose a funeral home to schedule time to pick up the body as well as the company that provided the healthcare equipment, such as over the bed table, oxygen concentrator, etc. To be honest, the way she spoke on the phone with the funeral home and the healthcare equipment location, it felt like a pizza delivery was being made. Once the phone calls were settled, we were asked if his dentures were to stay on or to be removed. It took us a couple of minutes to decide, but we eventually had the nurse take the dentures off. To be honest, I am glad they were off, because not only did he not look peaceful with it on, he also looked like a zombie. It was something I eventually told my sister-in-law when my brother's family arrived later in the evening. I also told her that it's true when people say that the deceased looks peaceful soon after they pass, but at the same time, in my mind, I also thought he started to look like a mannequin.
My mom, my brother, his wife, their child and I spent the majority of the evening in the living room and dining room while dad was peacefully sleeping eternally in his room. The funeral home finally arrived to pick up the body at around 7:30 pm. I introduced myself to two men that came in with a very tall metallic stretcher with a zipper cover attached to it. One of the men, the funeral director, introduced himself and told me he was the one who I spoke to over the phone several days ago, with my older brother, about what the funeral home offered. During the process, we all stared at the two men entering my father's room, closing the door and then eventually leaving the apartment with his body.
Many minutes after the two men left, about closer to 8:00 pm, I had gotten a call from the front desk of the apartment that there was a delivery. A delivery? In my mind, I was trying to process what prompted a delivery? We did not order pizza nor were there any other deliveries I was aware of. Also, any packaged deliveries coming in had to go through the people at the cleaners first as they were in charge of receiving and documenting their arrival before tenants picking them up. I guess there was a little bit of a confusion on the phone that was placed with the company that provided the healthcare equipment for dad a little earlier in the afternoon. The person at the front desk gave the phone to the driver and I immediately told him of the mistake that was made. He told me to give him several minutes. They eventually cleared it up and came up to pick up the equipment.
In the bedroom, there were several items that needed to be taken down and I helped the delivery/ pick up guy as there was nothing really to do at that present time as he would have had to come back for the remaining items anyway. I apologized to him for having to pick up closer to the last delivery and pick up time as it would have been rude to have the delivery/ pick up guy see a dead body had it been any earlier. He thanked me for being considerate as he told me that many people aren't and graciously let know to call the person who took care of the wheelchair as soon as we could as we will get billed for it if a call is never placed. He thanked me again and said he would take it from the front desk. After that, I came back up to the apartment to close the door one last time for that evening.