Hump Day: Passing of loved one unleashes emotions

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

If you’ve ever had a loved one in the hospital in New Brunswick and have caller ID, you know that seeing “PNB” (for Province of New Brunswick) come up on the screen when your telephone rings is likely not good news.

I’d received several of those calls since my father was hospitalized on June 2. Most of the time, they were to advise me of appointments or it would be a doctor updating me on Dad’s condition.

On Sunday just after 6 p.m., though, I knew the “PNB” on the caller ID bore bad news. Dad had been admitted to palliative care a few weeks ago. Since then he had declined steadily. In the past three or four days, that decline sped up to lightning speed. Since Friday, he was basically in a coma with his eyes open and breathing erratically. On the weekend, we went in to say our goodbyes and say what needed to be said. He was hugged and kissed. I’d caress his bald head and he seemed to lean into my hand. It was nearing the end. It was time for him to go. We just didn’t know exactly when.

I answered the telephone and a palliative care nurse told me the news that Dad had passed away. It was not unexpected. I kept my cool and said we’d be there in a few minutes. I made a few quick telephone calls to family and tried to talk as best I could. I had to practically hang up on my uncle because I felt the volcano of tears coming that had been pent up for so many months. There was nothing I could do to stop it.

And they came in an uncontrollable torrent. My self-imposed composure flew out the window and reality set in. Relief. Sadness. Grief.

After a few minutes of bawling into my son’s shoulder, I composed myself and managed to get to the hospital in one piece. I’m not so sure I should have been driving at that point, but I did.

The family members I could muster up on such short notice ended up in the now-quiet room looking down at Dad. He was so very still. His eyes and mouth were open. His dentures were in, something they told me they would do after he passed away. He was no longer struggling to breathe, moaning or twitching. He was at peace.

After spending a few minutes with him – and me trying quite unsuccessfully to close his eyes – we gathered his things and headed out just as the porters arrived to remove his body from the room.

In such a long lead-up to his death, we had ample time to plan the funeral and make all the necessary arrangements, but the news still hit like a ton of bricks. I was told that would happen and I didn’t believe it. I certainly do now.

Today will be spent greeting family, friends, colleagues and neighbours at the funeral home, while tomorrow there will be tears shed during Dad’s funeral. My cousin Kelley Mooney will sing her spiritual adaptation of Leonard Cohen’s iconic Hallelujah, the same version (minus the choir) on her viral YouTube video that has more than 450,000 views – and a version that can actually be sung in church. We’ll hear the homily about Dad.

There will be Amazing Grace, Ave Maria, Bread of Life, Be Not Afraid. We’ll all be a mess of tears and emotion. There will be that dreaded walk behind the casket upon arriving and leaving the church. The reception. The burial afterwards.

Rest in peace, Dad. You were loved. I’ll miss you. A little white dog named Milane will miss you, too. I brought Milane to see him often at his special care home and he loved petting her – and so did many of the other residents.

Before I end this sad edition of Hump Day, I must point out the passings of two other parents in the past few days. First, Genny LeBlanc, the mother of Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc. If you grew up around Moncton, you most likely recognize her as the manager of the Paramount Cinemas on Main Street. I went there often as a boy and clearly remember her there at her desk in the office just off the lobby.

My cousin is married to a first cousin of the mayor’s and he told me a few stories of Aunt Genny letting him in for free from time to time. What luck to have an aunt who managed a cinema! I visited the funeral home to pay my respects and saw many photos of that large grin of hers. What a smile! I’m sure it’s a smile that will be deeply missed – and one that will brighten up Heaven just a little bit more.

And finally, I must mention dear Shirley Capson, one of my readers who passed away a mere seven hours before my father. Her son Jason and I were updating friends on Facebook and were quick to point out (privately to each other) the connection of having our parent pass away on the same day within just a few hours of each other. I like to think Shirley held open the Pearly Gates for Dad when he got there just shortly after she did.

Shirley was a big fan of Hump Day and called me late last year to tell me how much she enjoyed the columns. I was touched, of course, and even dropped off a few handmade scarves from my on-again off-again knitting obsession as a Christmas present. I knew she had cancer and was grateful that she chose me as one of the people to whom she was going to express her gratitude. Rest in peace, Shirley. Such a sweet lady.

Suffice it to say, it’s been a rough week for parents. Now, it’s time for their adult children to live on without them. All three of these dear souls will be missed. You were all deeply loved.

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