What, Do You Want Me To Live Forever?
Forward: SV Morrone is my cousin. He, his brothers, sister and I spent many summers together doing the things that kids do to have fun. I have not only incredible memories of my cousins, but my Uncle Nick and Aunt Jean too. I adored Uncle Nick as I did all of my mom’s brothers and sisters. He was larger than life to me - the Marine, tough guy, with a great sense of humor (and talented artist). He remained that way to the day he passed. I am honored to have witnessed how his children and wife respected him and stayed true to who he was in their care of him in the final days. Not an easy thing to do in such a sad time. I miss Uncle Nick so very much. Thank you, SV for sharing your Story of Hope.
“What, do you want me to live forever?”
Strange question to ask someone and even a stranger title to this story, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Living a distance from your parents is a strain on any family but as long as everyone is healthy and all are living their lives to the fullest, the distance really doesn’t matter much. You call frequently, of course one way (parents don’t do the calling), and catch up whenever you can. Life is good for everyone and the Holidays are the time for everyone to get together and enjoy each other’s’ company filled with teasing each other and acting as though you hadn’t been apart. Thanksgiving 2007 was exactly that, a fun time for all.
My Dad, a smoker from the “Greatest Generation” was like most, you couldn’t question his smoking because it’s something that he ALWAYS did!
Well after dinner, Dad of course sat back to light-up another Marlboro cigarette, this time instead of waiting till the next morning to cough up a storm, he did that right then… This time I was there to see him wiping away blood. When I asked him about it he wanted to blow it off until I asked him if he didn’t think that might be a little serious? That’s a way to shame him into something, without getting mad... He finally agreed it was something a little serious and said he would do that. Well Dad did go to see a doctor soon thereafter, who did a biopsy diagnosing Dad with Lung Cancer (LC). I’m not sure what stage it was, but Dad was told that he needed to begin Radiation and Chemo immediately.
Dad reluctantly agreed and did go to his first treatment but quickly decided he didn’t want anything to do with that! He wasn’t going to quit smoking and he sure wasn’t going to make himself any sicker by going through the treatment. That decision was final and we (the family) all had to learn to deal with it. Sometime later, my older brother attended one of Dads follow up appointments and while there he witnessed the chest x-ray they took of Dad. It showed that the “LC” had spread throughout his body, yet he continued to flirt with the nurses and joke about things as if nothing was wrong…
He was never one to dwell on, or feel sorry for anyone, especially himself.
With Dads diagnosis, all his children, five of us, tried and did visit often. Whenever he had us over, he acted as if nothing was wrong with him by continuing with his normal activities to include keeping the tobacco industry financed. I believe it was just before Christmas that year while visiting, I attempted a grown-up conversation with Dad and questioned him about quitting his treatments and he asked me point blank, “What, do you want me to live forever?” Well, how do you answer that? My first reaction/response was “Hell Yeah!” but was that just for me or for him? He went on to say, “Naaaa, I’m good with it!” or something on those lines. I thought about that for a while and learned to accept his decision, because it was HIS DECISION TO MAKE! I don’t know if he had that discussion with anyone else in the family or not, I kept that to myself!
New Year’s came and went, and Dad continued to play golf with his Brother and also neighbors and friends who had no idea Dad was sick… Sometime around February 4th, Dad on his own contacted Good Shepard Hospice and made arrangements for their care when the time came. Beth (my wife) and I planned a trip down to Florida on February 7th early in the am to have as much time with him during the weekend. When we arrived around noonish, Dad was still in the bed. Mom, two of my brothers and my Uncle all talked about what a great day Dad had yesterday out playing golf, cutting up with everyone having an all-round Awesome day with everyone. I wasn’t to see that I guess. Around 5 pm when we were all preparing to sit down to dinner, I thought Dad needed to wake up and get something to eat and then he could go back to sleep, after all, yesterday was a big day! So of course, I was elected to wake him and ask him to come to the dinner table. Dad woke up but had a blank stare in his eyes, he got up and like every day, the first thing he did was light up a Marlboro… WOW, that is one powerful addiction or pleasure, depending on who you ask! After only two-three drags on his cigarette, he came to the table and attempted to eat something, but exhausted, he just quit and decided to go back to bed.
As a family we discussed what we just saw and because of his high spirits no one but Beth and I believed this was a bad time.
The next morning Dad wouldn’t wake up. Again, no one wanted to admit the obvious. Beth had been reading a book the Hospice Representative had left at the house and convinced me that it was time and we needed to call them in. I can’t say enough how valuable and heartfelt Hospice is with the families and of those suffering at the end stages of life. The home visit was immediate and they explained what we were to expect. They gave us morphine and the proper dosage(s) for Dad that he needed to make him as comfortable as possible. No one in the family wanted any part of that, I guess that too went along with denial, so I agreed to do it…
I took on the responsibility of caretaker of sorts and just about refused to leave Dad alone in his room. I sat with him, I cried a little (he hated cry-babies) so that wasn’t much at all. I talked to him and mostly just sat and held his hand… A few years back I wrote my Dad a letter to tell him that I thought he was the greatest Dad around and how much I appreciated everything he did for me and all of us in his family. There was no secret to how I felt about my Dad and our living years are the time to makes sure your loved ones know just how loved and appreciated they are.
Everyone should know, you never know when the last time you’ll be able to speak to a loved one, so do it NOW… True Story!
We spread the word to Dads family to come if they could and my AWESOME cousin and her husband flew two of Dads sisters from New Orleans to Florida to see him. Well, if anyone tells you that when Hospice patients are in that Morphine state, they can’t hear, THAT’S A LIE! My aunt Annie upon arrival came into the room with me and Dad and she talked to him and held his hand while he laid there motionless. But, when she started to sing to him in Italian, you would have thought someone just shoved a hot coal in his bed. It was kind of funny, but also very scary because neither one of us expected that. Dad calmed down, opened his eyes briefly then went back to sleep. Aunt Rose, Dads other sister who flew in came in the room and calmly talked to Dad, said what she had to say, kissed him goodbye and left the room. I was Dads caretaker at this time, if you want to call it that, I sponging his mouth and tongue with that sponge thingy they gave us, I rotated him in the bed and administered his meds every 4 hours. Later on after all of that, it felt like weeks and weeks, but during that time there was no indicator of time except for the 4-hour clock that ran and ran…
One day while Dad was sleeping soundly Beth came in and wanted to talk to Dad, of course she could, Dad loved her!!! Beth had lost her Dad when she was a teenager and she asked my Dad to pass hers a message when he got to Heaven… Well, this was the second time Dad woke up with a vengeance, swinging his arms, sitting up and moaning out loud. Yup, that scared poor Beth to death… Again, a little funny but also scary to the unexpected… Yes, they hear everything you say, so choose your words carefully! LOL!
On February 11th, Hospice sent a nurse to the house to sit with Dad at night to give me a rest. Reluctantly I agreed and welcomed the bed. At around 4:20 am on February 12th the Hospice nurse woke us up and told us that Dad was taking his last breaths… We each kissed him and said our goodbyes. Dad was at home, surrounded by his family who loved him and he passed calmly in his sleep…
Dad had an awesome celebration of life two days later on February 14th and was buried at the Florida National Cemetery with full military (Marine Corp) honors the next day!
Dad protected us throughout his life and also in his death. You see he waited until I left his side so that I wouldn’t have to bear the responsibility of his passing alone!!! It wasn’t until after he passed that I found out that Dad never took pain medicine during the progression of this “LC”. He was one tough cookie. A week later while driving to work one morning, I looked over at Beth when she said, “You know it’s OK to cry now”, I pulled over and cried like a baby in her arms! A day will never go by without thinking about him or the tons of things that he taught me. That’s what I believe is what life and legacy is all about! Good memories of a life shared…
“What, do you want me to live forever?”
No, just long enough to make you happy, Just long enough for you to experience the awesome things this beautiful world has to offer you. Just long enough to receive the love you gave. Yeah, maybe that’ll be enough!