Over, Part Over
I Should Also Tell You...

The How

When we got there on Friday, it was March 25th, and he was reading the Kindle I’d gotten him for Christmas. He was in a hospital bed in the living room and looked thin and pale and waxy, but he was reading his Kindle. He told me I looked good, referring to my super-pronounced-looking pregnant belly, and I think I said something dumb, like "you too!" that I immediately regretted. 

But honestly, compared to how he'd look in just a matter of hours, it was true. 

Noah walked in and surveyed the room. “PopPop, you sure are sick, aren’t you,” he observed matter-of-factly.

Ezra, thankfully, did not parrot my pre-visit explanations, but merely stuck his finger in his mouth and requested PopPop make his trademark popping sound with his finger and cheek. He obliged, laughing. Ezra giggled, as delighted with the trick as I’d been as a kid.

We hugged, we talked, we gossiped. He teased me about my hair, which he has not particularly liked since I dyed it red. “It’s looking better!” he said earnestly, referring to the neglected, washed-out, two-inches-of-dingy-blond-roots state it’s currently in.

Jason and the boys left to stay at his parents’ house; I stayed behind to keep my mom company. She slept on a recliner in the living room. I went upstairs to sleep in their room, where I was randomly unnerved by the sight of my dad's verse-a-day calendar, still stuck on the Friday from the week before -- the day he agreed to stop, to in-home hospice, the last time he'd been upstairs in his own house. 

Photo (7)

By the time I woke up on Saturday, it had already begun.


Death is ultimately cold, but his started out hot. A fever. Sleeping more and more. Confusion. Disorientation. He was saying things that didn’t make sense, reaching for medications he’d already taken minutes before. We thought, at first, that he'd simply taken an extra Benadryl. Yes, that was what was happening. That explained it. Move the medications away from his bedside, problem solved, here's your Kindle. 

His nurse visited and floated the idea of moving him to their full-time hospice facility. He said no.

He asked for a drink but spilled juice all over the place. We blamed the cup. Probably better off with a lid and a straw anyway, right? That's the problem, surely. I went to the store to find some kind of grown-up sippy cup, eventually stumbling upon some plastic sports cups with obnoxious, cheesy sayings on them.

This was the first one I picked up off the shelf:

Photo (5)

That bit of gallows humor was too much for even me, so I dug around until I found one with an ugly but inoffensive fishing pier design on it instead.

He never really woke up enough to use it. 


I went over to my in-laws to spend some time with the boys. I packed up dinner for my mom and I (Julia Child’s beef bourguignon, courtesy of Jason), but was interrupted by a text message. Come, hurry, something’s wrong, bad, nurse is here again, etc.

I jumped in the car and floored it, called my mom to tell her I was on my way and she asked if I could stop somewhere and buy some liquid Tylenol for my dad’s fever -- he wasn’t awake enough for a pill and his fever was scary high.

“I PACKED THAT. HANG ON,” I shrieked and made a u-turn back to my in-laws and our luggage, where I dug out some generic children’s acetaminophen from the stash of medicines we drag everywhere now and promptly dashed out again.

The nurse tried. He gagged and choked after barely an Ezra-sized dose of a teaspoon. He was on fire, the hottest fever I’ve ever felt from human skin.

She mentioned the hospice pavilion again, gently hinting that it was simply not going to be possible for my mom and I -- neither of us with any nursing backgrounds, nor clearly especially level-headed in the face of a medical crisis -- to keep him comfortable and pain-free at home from this point on. He was so out of it, she said, it was unlikely he’d ever really even figure out that he’d been moved at all.

My mom worried about money because their insurance would only cover a five-day stay. The nurse assured her that arrangements could be made, that no one was ever turned away from their facility for an inability to pay, etc. 

But I could tell she knew already. It wouldn’t be more than five days.

I hid in a coat closet and called my sister, crying because we didn’t want to go against his wishes, but oh. Oh. Oh. We can’t do this. I can’t do this. Mom can’t do this. It’s happening so fast.

Finally, I rationalized that Dad’s wishes to “die at home” were more about not being alone and having us there than the actual physical spot on the map. Hospice meant my mom could stay by his side as his wife and not his caretaker or nurse, for the first time in years. Other people could handle the ugly, more indelicate parts of the dying process. He would understand, if we could fully explain it to him. Which of course, we couldn't.

“Okay,” I said.

“Okay,” my mom said.

Everybody got on the phone except for me. I sat next to him and held his burning-hot hand. I pressed his thumb into some molding compound so I could get a necklace made with the print, but his skin seemed melt right through without leaving much of an impression.

  Photo (6)


Jason rushed over so we could follow behind the ambulance to hospice. I remembered to put the stew in the refrigerator but would later realize I left two entire containers of milk on the counter. 

The hospice facility had TVs, a library, DVDs, CDs, a kitchen stocked to the gills with drinks and snacks and comfort foods for families. I saw a small playground outside. I drank some coffee and ate a chocolate pudding cup. Jason asked my mom if he could buy her dinner and she wanted fast-food hamburgers and French fries. He went to Wendy’s and brought us both back exactly that, plus Frostys.

It was exceedingly quiet. Carpet instead of tile, couches and recliners instead of vinyl waiting-room chairs. No machines save for oxygen, no drapes or beeps or boops or needles or vital sign checks. The nurses didn’t wear scrubs. They all looked like people I’d be friends with in real life, and I loved them immediately. They also did not administer any more Tylenol, explaining that the usual ways of administering it to an unconscious patient were too risky for my father and would only cause more bleeding. They turned up the air conditioning, took off his socks and put ice packs under his arms instead, which eventually brought the fever down enough for my dad’s eyes to open and for him to nod a bit when offered pain medication, which was rubbed directly onto his gums.

“Does he know where he is?” my sister worried and texted from afar.

“I really don’t think so,” I responded, at a loss to adequately explain the waking-sleep state he was in.

I made another run back to the house around 11 pm to get my mom her toothbrush and a change of clothes. When I returned the nurses had set up a bed for her on a cushy recliner, but told her she could climb in bed next to him if she wanted. “We’ll be here if you need us. But not if you don’t.”


I went back with Jason to his parents’ house and slept like shit. My mom texted in the morning that Dad was asking for me, which seemed beyond belief, and frankly, honestly, exhausting. Was last night a fluke? Did we overreact? Move him too soon?

Was this rollercoaster never, ever going to end? 

And was I actually admitting that I kind of hoped it would? 

I arrived and he was awake. He couldn’t talk, but was mouthing a few words and trying anyway. He recognized my face and voice. I called him Daddy and told him I loved him, and he struggled to say it back so I said it for him. I know. I knew. I always knew. He squeezed his eyes shut and nodded. I promised we’d take care of my mom and Jason would take care of me and we’d all take care of the babies and everything was fine. Everything was fine.

He clutched my hands. He rubbed my arms. He touched my face. It was the most desperately perfect moment ever.


His eyes weren't open much longer after that. His legs twitched and his arms pulled at blankets and clothes and his oxygen cannula, which he’s worn for three full years now. He was breathing through his mouth -- a noisy, harrowing-sounding breath, full of blood and secretions -- and the nurse said we could probably go ahead and turn the oxygen off if he kept pulling at it, because he wasn’t getting anything anyway.

We pulled it off. There was no difference. I reached over and hit the power on the machine, plunging the room into silence, except for the sound of that terrible, death-rattle breathing.


My sister called in the afternoon and I held the phone next to his ear. At the sound of her voice, his face twitched into an unmistakable smile of joy. For just a second, then back to peace.


We had to leave. We HAD to. I’d gone through every possibility I could think of, but the fact was we had the final day of Noah’s evaluation on Tuesday morning and rescheduling meant we went back on a months-long waiting list for another open spot.  His IEP meeting was in a week and we wanted the results. We couldn’t miss it. Jason couldn’t get many more days off, I didn’t have childcare for the afternoons, it would take time to make arrangements for later in the week. A hospice nurse whispered that she could babysit the next day, on her day off, but the boys were clearly struggling with the situation and the lack of routine and I flapped my hands around helplessly until my mom grabbed my shoulders and told me to go home, it’s okay, she understood, and hell, he’d understand. Go take care of your babies.

I asked for a few minutes alone to say goodbye. I repeated everything I’d already said that morning. I kissed his head and shrunken cheek and tried to ignore his open mouth, which was seeping with blood from his gums, tongue and cheeks. It was hard to see, but hard not to as well. 

This time, he didn’t respond. His body was still holding on to a vital function or two, but honestly, he was already gone.

I left the room and immediately started sobbing like never before, as the not-exactly-earth-shattering realization that I wasn’t going to see him ever again hit me with the force of rush-hour traffic, oh my God, oh my God, it's not fair, it's not fair.


We got home in under three hours. I didn’t unpack. I took a bath and went straight to bed.

The phone rang at 3:10 am. It was March 28th. And it was over.


I cried for awhile. And then I didn't. And then I did, again.

Then I added a dark-colored maternity dress to my still-packed suitcase and bought a train ticket to go back up to my mom's house, again. 



My heart and prayers are with you. I am so sorry.


Thoughts and prayers for you and your family - this was just so touching.


I'm reading this with tears streaming down my face as I am reliving a week of my life 12 years ago as I said goodby to my mother...complete with those agonizing choices...making arrangements for my three young children...trying to be there for my dad...

My heart is aching for you,


I'm so sorry. Losing a parent sucks.

But aren't the hospice nurses angels? They are some of the most amazing, patient people I've ever met - despite the circumstances.


Thank you for sharing this with us, Amy. Your beautiful writing has taken the edge off of the fear I have of my own loved ones dying. I will continue to pray for peace during this time of grief for you! Don't forget to eat. You need to feed that baby of yours.

Katie Serendipity

That was beautiful and heartbreaking, and I am so, so sorry. That hospice care sounds wonderful, and I wish my grandma had had that instead of the beeps and scrubs and terse clipboard-holding nurses. I wish nobody had to die.

Jessica Sides

I read this and was instantly transported back to the same situation with my Grandmother, and it is as raw and heart wrenching reading your account as it was then.

I know that they are both at peace and my thoughts are with you and your family, today and from here on out.

Thank you for sharing.


I'm so sorry.


Shannnon @nwaMotherlode

May that perfect moment and all your happy memories sustain you. XO


I'm so sorry, Amy. So sorry for your great loss. Hold on.

Take all the time you need. We'll be here for you when you come back.


sigh. beautiful words and moments in the face of something so somber. i have tears rolling down my cheeks. i'm so, so sorry, Amy.


sigh. beautiful words and moments in the face of something so somber. i have tears rolling down my cheeks. i'm so, so sorry, Amy.


Oh my, this was beautifully written and oh so heartbreaking! You are in my prayers. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Amanda Pack

Amy, I don't even know you personally but I have a lot of love for you and the stories you share about your life. Thank you for sharing the laughs and the tears. God Bless you and yours.


I'm so very, very sorry for your loss.

Fairly Odd Mother

This is so heartbreakingly honest and real, I feel like I'm living it all over again---the raw mouth, the sound of the rattly breath, the up and downs that seem unbelievable, the fear. . .and I know you don't need my approval, but I think you did the right thing by moving him to hospice and letting you all just LOVE him.

I'm so sorry.


Dear Amy, I am so incredibly sorry. Thank you for sharing your story with us. You are amamzingly talented at describing these feelings that we all go through but can't necessarily express.

My grandmother died last month. It was cancer for her, too. I know that doesn't make it the same, but I have definitely felt death's nearness and reality lately...

I am grieving for both her and your dad.

Jane Gassner

When a girl has had a wonderful father, it's a blessing beyond compare. But at the end, when she loses him, it's almost more than she can bear. I remember when my dad died looking at the world which was just the same as always and thinking, "don't they know? My dad isn't here anymore" It was almost an affront to see that life did in fact continue for everyone else. I've been there, and my heart goes out to you.


I'm so sorry for your loss :( Your words have made me laugh so many times today. But today I cried, because I felt like I was right there with you. I'll keep your family in my prayers.


Your story is both heartbreaking and uplifting. I hope that every day brings you a little more peace knowing he is your special angel now.


I'm so sorry for your loss. Sending prayers for you and your family.


Oh, Amy. I just went through this with my mom last month, and I know how awful it is. I'm so glad you got a chance to be with him and tell him you loved him. It sounds like you did right by him, and I am sure he was aware and loved you for it.


I'm so sorry. I know he will be in your heart and mind as you bring your new addition into the world. Take care and God bless!


I am sitting here crying. I have been thinking about you all week. I am so sorry, again.


He obviously loved you very much. I'm just so sorry for your loss.


I'm thinking of you and and your family, such a sad time for you all.

C @ Kid Things

I was doing fine until I got to the point where you said you always knew he loved you and now I'm a crying mess. Which probably isn't going to help the migraine I've been fighting all day, but who cares. You, and your family, are still in my thoughts and prayers if I were the praying kind.



You are my favorite. I've read your blog for years and have never commented. This time though, I can't stop crying and I wanted to tell you how sorry I am for your loss. You are so amazing, how you capture every day life and now, death. I'm so sorry though Amy.

I'm sending a hug your way.


Amy, I'm so sorry. I've been where you are now, and it sucks. Cancer sucks. Please take care of yourself.


Amy~ So sorry for you loss, couldn't get through your post without crying. Beautiful words, full of love for your father. My thoughts are with you & your family.


So very sorry for your loss. Keeping you and your family in my thoughts. This post brought me to tears for your and at the thought of losing a daddy!


Beautiful tribute to your dad. May the coming days bring you and your family peace. You are an amazing daughter, mother, wife, sister, friend.


Oh Amy, my thoughts and prayers are for you and your family. What a moving precious post. Not everyone gets those sweet quiet moments with their loved ones in the end. I didnt. I just want to encourage you that it WILL get easier. I wanted to kick everyone in the teeth that told me that, but.... they were right. Im going to say a special prayer for your mom. ..I just know she needs it. That's all. ((hug))


Gosh, it sounds just like my Mom (1 year ago). Everything, the noise, the oxygen, everything. I am so sorry for your loss. I know how hard it is.


My heart is breaking into a million pieces for you. I'm sending you all the hugs and all the love I can. I can't tell you how much I admire your strength through all this.


Thank you for sharing. This was so hard to read but thank you for sharing.


I am sitting here sobbing. remembering 2 years ago yesterday when I did the same thing. I have a picture of my hand and my mom s hand both holding his, moments before he left us. Take care of yourself.


I have the pocket calendar my dad had with the days marked off until the day he had his stroke and died....

Big Gay Sam


I'm crying as I write this. I'm so sorry you had to go through this. Please please please remember that we love you and are praying hard for you and your family.


This is one of the most beautiful and painful things I've ever read. Thank you for bringing us on this part of the journey with you. We're here, holding you close, praying, sending love.


Thank you for sharing, you didn't have to. Peace to you and your family and hugs as well.


Thank you for sharing this with all of us. Your writing is incredible.

Mrs. Kinne

I am so very sorry for your loss. I am sending love to you and your family.


What a beautiful tribute to your father. I'm crying here while reading. You are strong and brave. Love to you and your family.


I have no words that haven't been said 250 times before me. I am so sorry for your loss.

Your words about his final days are poignant and I find myself sitting here at my desk at work sobbing.

Your family is in my thoughts.


I wish I had the power to comfort you. You are in my heart.


I'm so sorry, Amy. That was so beautifully written. Ironically, I was reading it while watching American Idol from last week - while a contestant was singing Elton John's Candle in the Wind. I'm not even kidding when I tell you that as I finished reading the last lines, I was hearing, "your candle burned out long before your legend ever did."

Somehow, I think that is going to be so true.


my 4yo son came to wipe away my tears while i was reading this. amy, i'm so sorry.


I'm so sorry for your loss. You have moved this lurker to tears! Your eloquent writing is definitely a gift from him.


My heart aches for you and your family. Your dad must have been very proud of you.


So sorry. Warm thoughts are with you and your family at this time.


You and your family are in my prayers.


I am so very very sorry for your loss, but so thankful you had those few moments with him where he could tell you how much he loved you, and that you could hear him, even though he was communicating without words........hugs to you.


Amy, there are no words that I can share that will make you feel better.

What I can say is that I just experienced this yesterday. My sweet mom died of esophageal cancer. After she knew her family was with her, the death-rattle started and the only thing keeping her alive was oxygen.

It was horrible and nothing that I ever care to relive. I just want you to know that there are others who are sharing in your grief at this time.

Many hugs and prayers to your family.

Amy in PA


Oh, Amy. Having only "met" you dad here on your blog, it's absolutely so clear what a wonderful man he was. I'm so sorry for your and your family's loss. What you've written here is such a beautiful tribute to him. Thank you for sharing it with us.


I am sorry for your loss. So sorry. <3


God. You are so good at this. You just really know how to write.
I hate that you are writing about this...but it is a lovely tribute.


You have one more person crying, thinking of you and your family. You are brave and wonderful
to share this and I
thank you very much.


this entry is terrible, and wonderful, and beautiful and tragic. I am so sorry you lost your father. he will always be with you, and now, with this post he is with all of us. much love to you, your mother and your whole family.


Ugh, that awful open mouth death breathing. I remember it from my father. I remember realizing, for the first time ever, that death requires a midwife, just like birth. I remember being so thankful that there were people there to help, to be those midwives.
It was awful and life altering.
I am so sorry for you and your family.
Peace to you.


tears sweetheart, tears for you and your family. tears for me when I lost my step dad to the fucking cancer. your writing brought me right back to those moments when i had the honor of helping him pass with dignity. thank god for the hospice, don't know how many of us would make it without their help. here's to the days when the memories will bring tears of joy to your eyes instead of tears of pain. beautiful piece, even though it feels odd saying so.


:'( wishing i could take some of your pain away. know that so many are thinking of you and wish they could help you.



This is one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking things I have ever read. I am once again so sorry. But I also wanted to say that you have once again proved how great a man your dad was by being able to capture this awful experience and turning it into a sad, but beautiful piece.


No words here but having been there, thank you for articulating the complexity of all of these emotions.

Hospice and the people of hospice are truly God-sent. It sounds like they helped provide your father and your family with some measure of comfort during this natural, but some how so unnatural, life experience.


I'm glad for the bits of comfort that hospice was able to give you guys, glad he was able to know that you were there and you knew he loves you, and I'm alternating between flaming angry at how unfair it is for you to lose your dad, and leaden limp at not being able to do anything, say anything that can make a difference or fix any of it.


De-lurking here for the first time. I've read your blog for years. Oh Amy, I'm so sorry. If we were friends in real life I'd bring you some fudge. Hugs to you!


I'm so sorry for your pain and loss. I hope you can feel the love and thoughts from your loyal readers...thank you for sharing your life and beautiful writing.


Blessings for your family. Strength for you as you come closer to your due date...bringing that new little one into the world means that much more now.


I've only been reading your blog for a few weeks, but I've been following your dad's story. Crying pretty hard, reading this, and I can't imagine how hard it's been for you.

Wishing your whole family peace.


If our tears could lessen your load, you'd feel exponentially lighter today. Thank you for sharing with all of us who, truly, are invested in the well-being of you and yours.


Amy - I'm a frequent reader, but I don't think I've ever posted before. I just wanted to let you know that I'm so, so sorry for your loss.

Your dad obviously loved extremely well, and was extremely well-loved; I hope that your memories of him help bring you and your family some measure of comfort and peace.

Please be gentle with yourself and hug those kiddos tight.

(I was surprised to learn that the hospice you referenced is at a location less than ten minutes from my house. I'd have gladly done the Wendy's run for you, or brought you bagels or a cozy fleece throw, or come over with a hug.)


I'm so sorry for you Amy. Your words are an amazing tribute to your father. Know that yet another one of your readers is thinking of you and your family and wishing you peace.


I'm a long time reader, but don't think I've ever commented before. But I wanted to tell you I'm so very sorry for your loss. Very very sorry.


I'm so sorry you had to go through this. Hospice care is wonderful, isn't it? I'm glad you got to say your good-bye's to your Daddy. Please remember to think of his love for you and your babies. He sounds like a wonderful Dad.


I'm so sorry. So sorry.

What you have written has given me something amazing. My sister was dying after a long cancer battle, & I couldn't see her - I couldn't travel because of pregnancy complications. Your story has brought me closer to being there, in that moment that I missed. Thank you.


Crying with you here in Minnesota. I'm so sorry.

the bee

There really are no words except that you managed to find all the right ones.God Bless your mom and you and your whole family. On the days when you feel empty, good memories will fill you up. Hugs- Betsy

Jenny Joy

Love and hugs. And more love. And healing.


You write so well I'm crying. I'm so sorry you had to live through this, but I'm glad you had the time with him. *hugs* and more *hugs*


Amy, I truly wish that technology was at the point where words could actually leap off the screen and wrap you & your family in the warmth of my prayers. I hope that the depth of my sorrow for your loss doesn't get lost in the inadequacy of time-honoured cliches. I am so sorry that your Daddy is no longer here with you but I can be certain that he would beam with pride if he could read how eloquently and honestly his Little Girl wrote about these last few days and how he knows that he taught you well because even in the mire of darkness, you saw the burgeoning daybreak of what is to come: the Life that stumbles onward into a purposeful stride again. You gave him permission to leave this place and promised to take care of the people he cared so much about. And you are doing such an amazing job at being the daughter, wife, sibling and mother, and part of your success is admitting that there are days that will feel as though you are fumbling around in the dark, scared and unsure, wanting to feel secure in hope and happiness again and needing someone to tell you it will all be okay, because maybe hearing it will make it true. And you will be okay, because you have each other. And he will always be your Daddy; the man who helped to teach you, not only about your immense capacity to Love, but also your captivating ability to wield words, as weapons or gentle caresses, depending on how you saw the world that day. He lives on in you, and in those beautiful, boisterous, bogglingly intuitive boys, who will make sure that when the dark seems to invade your heart with it's doubt and obscurity, a night-light will flicker and will illuminate your path.

Our most sincere condolences to your entire family. You are in our thoughts.


Oh Amy. I am so sorry for your loss. Your words are a beautiful tribute to your father (particularly, "I always knew") and made me bawl my eyes out, of course, especially less than 6 months after our own loss from cancer, through hospice...but you - the person you are, and the people you're shaping your sons to be - are the most beautiful tribute of all. Thank you so much for sharing; I hope that doing so has eased your heart at least a little, and know that there are so many of us "out here" praying for and crying with you.


My heart is broken for you.


You told my story. Right down to going to the store to buy sippy cups thinking the cup was the problem. I am so sorry you went through it too. I hope you eventually find peace.


I'm so sorry. Hugs to you.

Jessica V

Amy - I've re-read this entry many times today, with tears in my eyes each time. Your relationship with your dad is a really special one and I'm so very, very sorry for your loss. May he rest in peace.


You are an amazing writer. And I am so, so sorry for your loss. I hope you can feel the love pouring at you and your family from the internet.


So so sorry, and I know no words can really help at this point. Just know that many people are thinking of you and your family.


I lost my Daddy, six months ago, to cancer.
The best thing someone said to me, I will say to you:
The love he had for you, the love he gave you, will never die, it lives on within you forever...

I am so, so sorry.


I went through the same thing 2 1/2 years ago. I wanted to stay wit him that night but the nurse sent us home and he died alone, which we think he wanted. We all love you. I am so, so sorry


I'm so sorry (and sitting here tearing up after reading this). Best wishes to you and your family in this difficult time.


Heartbroken for you. Shedding tears for your beloved Daddy and for all of you.


Amy, I deal with death and illness every damn day (I'm a nurse), and yet your post has reduced me to tears. Sooo, soo much love is flying to you and yours from rainy Alaska.


I am so very sorry for your dad's death. It's never the right time to lose someone you love.


He's at peace now Amy. No more pain and suffering. His genes live on in your family and as the years go by you will see and hear your precious Dad again and again in your sons, just as I see and hear mine in my sons.



Oh, honey. I'm sitting here in tears, just so sad and heartbroken for you. For all of us, the whole world, that has to deal with grief and loss and Daddy being gone. It makes my heart ache. I'm glad you had that desperately perfect moment, that both of you did.

From Belgium

No, it is not fair.
I can only struggle to keep the tears from pouring.
Hugs from across the ocean and strenght.
I am so very sorry..


I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you, your mom, and the rest of your family.

Sue W.

And I'm sitting here crying for you. I know too well the path you are walking.

He's at peace now. No pain. No cancer. Just sweet peace.

May his love comfort you.

kim at allconsuming

Oh Amy. Oh beautiful beautiful Amy. People all around the world are holding you, your mum and your family so very close to their hearts at this, the most tragic and emotional of times.


I'm so sorry. Thank you for sharing your story.

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