Thursday, January 27, 2011

Open letter to the hospice floor

Dear 9th Floor,

Later today, my daddy will be joining you. You don't know him, and unfortunately, you never will; he has been gone a long time.

He was a Southern lawyer. A good one, too. His office was downtown on the sixth floor and overlooked the atrium with a fountain and huge plants. I loved to visit him there. He kept candy on his desk to entice people to stop in for a hello when they walked past his door.

Always looking out for someone in need, Daddy was a mentor to countless lawyers who joined the firm after him, going as far as to invite the ones with no family to spend Christmas morning with us. Our table never had an empty chair for holidays or Sunday dinner.

Daddy is a Presbyterian Elder. He loved the structure and organization of the Presbyterian church. He was a staunch supporter of what he felt was God's will in the life of the church, and there wasn't a member there who didn't look up to him. As moderator of the session more than once, he held the utmost respect of the congregation.

But just when you thought he was satisfied being a leader and polity maker, he starts teaching Sunday School. In the two-year-old classroom. Those children loved Mr. Tom like nobody else could.

Daddy was always full of surprises.

Daddy pitched for the law firm's softball team. He played the alto sax. He was in charge of breakfast at our house. He loved English Mastiffs. He wished my momma would cut the biscuits bigger. He liked going to New Orleans. He really liked playing his John Phillip Sousa marches as loud as Momma would let him.

We used to go to the Jackson Mets games. I love baseball because of Daddy. When I was in the fifth grade, I was determined to play Little League. He signed me up. I was one of two girls in the league, and he never flinched. He helped me practice pitching, and he supported me the entire season. He might have even been a little disappointed when I didn't sign up again, but he didn't let me know it.

You might just hear Daddy ask you for a cookie while he is on your ward. The man loves sugar like nobody's business. Donuts, cookies, ice cream, Momma's pound cake - he would live on nothing but sugar and carbs if he could. He frequently got up during the night just to have a snack (little powdered donuts from the grocery store). There wasn't a Snickers bar that was safe within 100 feet of him, and he could find a Dairy Queen with his eyes closed in a town he had never been to before.

That is just a glimpse at the man you are caring for now. That is just a tiny bit of what I know about Daddy.

What I don't know about Daddy is how much he is aware of right now. I don't know if he hurts, if he is scared, if he knows that you are the hospice floor. I don't know if he knows that he will die soon.

You have to understand. That is what scares me. Not the passing of my daddy, because he has been so sick for so very long - I have prayed that God would make him whole again, even if the only way to do that was to take him. But I'm scared that he is scared and can't tell us.

So I'm counting on you, his nurses, his doctors. I'm counting on you not to call him "dead weight" when you have to move him, because he might still hear you and understand you. I'm counting on you to help him eat the few bites he can get down because he used to love food so much. I'm counting on you to keep him safe and take care of him just a little while longer.

He's somebody's husband. He's somebody's father. He's a father-in-law, a PawPaw, a G-Daddy, and a dear friend.

He's not just a man with Parkinson's. Please remember that while you are caring for him. You are caring for a man who has cared for so many others. You are caring for my daddy.

His daughter