“Oh, Eleanor, I’m glad you’re here.”

Those were the last words my Dad said to me.  It was about 4:30 p.m., December 10, 2004.  Dad died about five hours later.

My Dad had been battling cancer for about ten years.  It started with colon cancer, then lung cancer a few years later.  The last couple months of his life, the cancer spread to his spine and he was in more and more obvious pain as he tried to continue with living.  A few days after Thanksgiving, at peace with the knowledge that my Mom was being cared for (she had Alzheimer’s, had recently broken her hip, and had been placed by the hospital in a rehab facility), he finally gave in to the disease. 

I think Dad knew in his heart that he no longer needed to fight for her, and so he could stop fighting the disease, too, and – as a devout Christian – find an everlasting peace through that process.

My brother called me when the doctors advised him that Dad didn’t have much longer to live.  I flew from Ohio to Jersey and was blessed to spend the last few days of Dad’s life with him.  I would visit Mom at the nursing home early in the morning, then spend the rest of the day and evening with Dad.

On this particular day, I ran into one of Dad’s nurses in the elevator.  She told me the end was coming that day; she could just tell.  I called my brother and he came right to the hospital.  By this time, Dad was on a great deal of morphine to keep him as comfortable as possible.  His limbs were retaining fluids.  I remember sitting next to him, rubbing his swollen, cold and clammy arm, hoping that he could feel my touch and maybe find some comfort in that.  Dad was in and out of consciousness that last day.  A few of Dad’s friends came and went.

At one point, late in the afternoon, Dad opened his eyes.  He turned his head toward me, and said those last words, “Oh, Eleanor, I’m glad you’re here.”

It gives me comfort to this day that Dad not only knew I was there with him, but that he said he was glad I was there.

Today, tomorrow, this holiday season, take the opportunity to tell your visiting family and friends how glad you are to have them in your life.  Tell them how much their visit means to you.  Tell them how glad you are that they care about you.

Be glad.     Tell them.     You may not have another chance.

Miss you, Dad.

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