For those regular readers, I’m asking that you bear with me, as I do a little emotional purging, here. This is probably going to be one of those stream-of-consciousness things, and if it falls a bit short, I have only my emotional state to blame.
If you’re not a regular reader, just hang in there. I’ll be back to myself, soon enough, but for today, I’m not doing well.
Those of you who have been hanging with me a bit know that I lost my older brother back on April 6 of this year. A massive heart attack took him away from us, and he joined his dear wife, who preceded him in death, by two years in June.
It was a horrible blow to the family. My ouster from RedState came only three weeks later.
That tore it. April 2018 just sucked.
What some of you may not have known is that for a little over two years I’ve been acting as the primary caregiver for my 77-year old dad.
Daddy was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia several years ago, a debilitating disease that takes on the characteristics of both Parkinson’s Disease, as well as Alzheimer’s.
LBD is the second-most common form of progressive dementia (behind Alzheimer’s). It occurs when protein deposits called Lewy bodies accumulate in nerve cells in the regions of the brain that involve thinking, motor control, and memory.
With Daddy, it began in the shuffling movements. Sometimes his legs would just “give up,” and he would fall.
Then there was the agitation, and the memory loss.
Hiding the keys to his truck and enduring his rage became an Olympic-level event, around here.
He once found them while my mom and I were preoccupied with a project in the back yard. We didn’t realize what had happened, until we saw his truck roaring out of the yard and down the street.
We spent a tense half hour, wondering where he’d gone and how we would find him, before getting a phone call. He’d made his way out to a major interstate, on his way to find a man to help him with some unknown business, before it occurred to him that he didn’t know where this man lived – or where he was, in that moment.
“Tell me where I am.”
And then the phone went dead.
Mom took off in her car to try and locate him, while I manned the phones. He eventually came rambling back into the yard, and we got the keys from him and got a lot more creative with how to keep them out of his hands.
As the disease progressed, including the hallucinations that became a regular part of every day, the needs became more intense.
My mom, God love her, still works full time (12 hour days) as a nurse with the county jail. She likes staying busy.
With Mama out of the house, “guarding” Daddy became my duty.
The condition had left him incontinent, so cleaning him up every morning and dressing him was first on a long list of my duties as a daughter.
Fixing breakfast, lunch, keeping him occupied during the day – and finding time to write – was my usual routine.
In September 2017, Daddy’s legs went.
He was having trouble standing and walking, anyway, but at some point, they stopped working, altogether, and he became bedridden.
After a short stay in the hospital to treat an infection, we were told – bluntly – that he would not get “better.” He would only get worse, because LBD is a progressive disease, and that we should start looking for a nursing home, where he could get the care he needed.
Out of the question.
Hospice was called in.
And let me say, the people of Hospice are true Godsends. We had a wonderful, compassionate nurse named Heather who came to our home twice a week, as well as two nursing assistants that came to help clean him up and change his bed linens on Mondays and Fridays.
We kept his bed by the big picture window in the den, so he’d always be able to watch the neighborhood, and when company came, he’d be right there with them.
He was in that bed from October 11, 2017 to July 13, 2018.
Last Friday, my daddy went home and I am so lost.
It has only been three months since losing my brother, Clay, so as you can imagine, losing Daddy is another blow, even though we have been preparing for Daddy’s end for some time.
Tonight, we’ll have visitation. Tomorrow afternoon, we’ll lay him to rest.
I’m trying to embrace all the good that came out of this.
For one thing, my coming home, spending so much time with Daddy went a long way in repairing a relationship that was broken years before.
My dad and I didn’t have the typical father-daughter relationship. It wasn’t warm or protective or anything like that. I don't know why.
Daddy had his demons, and along with these cheekbones and this chin, I inherited his strong will and explosive temper.
Maybe that's it.
I’ve calmed down a lot. I credit the Holy Spirit doing what He does for that.
I forgave my Daddy a long time ago, as well.
As he lay in his bed, unresponsive in his last hours, I would lean close to his ear and read Scripture to encourage him. I told him I forgave him. I loved him.
I think he knew, long before this past week, but I wanted him to hear the words: “I forgive you. I love you.”
Those things are more important than you know.
The most amazing thing, however, is that Daddy accepted Christ as his savior, while lying in that bed.
My wonderful pastor and his wife came to visit shortly after my brother died. They ministered to Daddy. They prayed over him, then led him in the Sinner’s Prayer.
Daddy was already so weak then. He struggled to respond, but he responded to the positive, and I’m taking comfort in my belief that even through the haze, the Spirit of God was speaking and moving and preparing Daddy for his eternal home.
Today, even as my family mourns, he is free from the chains of this world. He’s not in that bed. He’s not dependent on anyone to clean him, dress him, or feed him. He’s free, and he’s having a great homecoming with his firstborn, Clay, as well as his parents, Clarence and Mattie, and all the heavenly hosts.
He’s in good hands. The pain is for those of us who will miss him.
But we will see him again.
I love you, Daddy.
Clayton Wright, Sr. (Sept. 1, 1940 – July 13, 2018)
Revelations 21:4 NLT – “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever."