Thursday, 18 August 2016

Dad's last days

Dad was with us in Lalitpur for three weeks.

He came to Lalitpur very sick.  A miracle trip across a goodly portion of our country.  Buoyed by the prayers of so many.

He and Mum's time with us was a blessing.  An intense final three weeks of daily caring for Dad.  A night and day participation in his life and pain.  An hourly opportunity to talk and pray.

And pray we did.

All kinds.  The basic one for 'healing' was definitely there.  We are after all asked to come to our Lord Jesus as little children.

But alongside that prayer were many auxiliary conversations.  Talking to God to help Dad with pain relief and strength.  Prayer for aiding in his breathing difficulties.  Thanksgiving for the many blessings that we have received over the years.

And Dad prayed too.  Prayed after he had his first pleural tap with Dr. Tony and Rahul in the hospital. Blessed people who came to see them.  His life continued to show forth love.

 Life was stripped down to the very essentials for Dad.

Sleep.  Pain relief.  Food. Toiletting.  A walk.  The Word.  Massage.

Food was an on-going challenge.  It was heart-breaking to see how little Dad ate.

This was a picture of an early meal.

Many of them went hardly eaten.  We tried to encourage him to eat - but he had the struggle of pain of digestion and very uncomfortable gas.  The legacy of a very complicated life-extending surgery done last year - and the on-going spread of the cancer.

Each day he seemed to eat less.  We were told not to force him.  His body was shutting down.  We tried to respect his need for calories and balance it with a loving encouragement to eat.

Dad struggled with breathing as the cancer in his lungs did its thing.  The fluid which accumulated in the pleural cavity started to crowd the lungs for space.   It was so hard to see Dad struggling to breathe.  You feel so helpless.

And so we took the help of our dear Dr. Tony and the medical team Dad had a pleural tap done.  Three times in the three weeks.  We knew that the cancer in the lungs would produce fluid again - but wanted to breathe as easy as possible.  This is what they took out the first time.  Almost 1 litre of fluid.

It was repeated 2 more times when Dad's breathing became hard.  We are grateful to the palliative care team that they were able to come to our home and do the procedure in Dad's bed room.   The three procedures done  really helped Dad's quality of life.

Dad did not want to die.  None of us do.  One of the things he insisted on was a walk each day.  His walks were slow and painful, but he tried hard to get out at least once a day.  As the days went on, the walks become slower and shorter.

And then finally, he did not walk outside at all.  Even the walk to the toilet was a strain and would take some 15 minutes to cross 15 meters.

Taking his medications was key.  We had a little book in which Dad wrote the doses he took and when.  He was meticulous about this.  But in his last 10 days, he had stopped writing.  His world had shrunk.

I had the privilege of giving many of the medicines to him.  We had previously had his medicines beside his bed, but since he was not taking them regularly, I stepped in and prayed each time Dad had to take his morphine.

The drug did help a lot to control his pain.  But did not leave Dad pain-free.  There was always pain in the back ground.  It was hard for Dad to keep talking about it.

One way around the pain was to distract the mind.  I read aloud the major portion of a biography of DL Moody to Dad.  We also read from scripture - covering 11 chapters of the gospel of Luke.

Mum and others would also read with Dad, and sing and pray with him.

As time went on Dad began to slip into greater and greater dependence.  I found it harder to have him stand up and sit down.  Walking took ages and required a set of instructions to keep his legs going. Dad would fall asleep talking to you.  But what a privilege to hold this dear, dear father of ours.

A few times Dad apologised for 'the trouble he was causing us.'   We were able to tell him repeatedly how blessed we were to be caring for him - and that Sheba and I were doing so on behalf of Stefan and Neeru as well as Premila as well.   Dad was reassured to hear this.

Dad's slipping into greater and greater dependence marked a role-reversal.  The hands who had cared for me when I was an infant now needed caring for.  The meticulously organised mind now needed us to write down what medications he had taken and when.  The large pastoral heart now needed encouragement and constant inputs.

Mum was such a rock of love and support for Dad.   Christian marriage is based on a promise to each other and to God... in sickness and in health... till death do us part.   Mum lived out the consistency of love over the 48 years of their life together.

I found the same in my dear Sheba who uncomplainingly supported in her quiet and efficient way. For most of the nights I slept with Dad so that Mum could get some rest too.  Sheba's love and service helped Dad so much.

As did the prayers of the saints.

Victor and Sarah were planning to come over the 13-15th weekend.

Seeing the deterioration in Dad's condition, we asked them to come the next day which they did.

While all of this was going on, we were also planning for the next step.  Mum told us that she wanted Dad's funeral in Mussoorie, so we began getting the logistics together.

Stefan was in regular contact with us by phone and through him Premila was also being kept abreast with the situation.  Rudy called daily after he spent the first week of Dad's Lalitpur sojourn with us.

In the last week, our dear foster brother Narendra Kumar came out from Varanasi to care for Dad, which was such a great blessing to us.

 On  Tuesday, Dad became more and more disoriented, and less and less able to care for himself.  Feeding was now by spoon.  His walks had been stopped.  He started to lie in bed more than before.  Previously, Dad had insisted on sitting, even though most of the time he was dozing off.

Thursday night was traumatic as Dad slipped into a regular groan.  The groan continued the next day during his waking hours.

We had to continue to give Dad his medicines - and what food he would take.  In the end we mainly spoon fed him.  We were able to give almost every dose of his pain medications as tablets which he swallowed.   In the last days, when he was mainly sleeping we did give 2 subcunateous injections of the pain killer when the pain spiraled and he was not able to swallow.  But since we did not have much injectable morphine in stock, and since Dad did waken up most of the time, we would crush the medications, put them on a tea-spoon, mix it with fruit juice which he then swallowed - followed up by more fruit juice to take away the bitter taste in his mouth.

All through these times, it was such a privilege to care.  To look after one who had been so healthy earlier, but now was painfully thin .   We were exchanging roles.  We are now able to care for him whose loving hands and heart had cared for me, as well as Stefan and Premi and Rudy (and their spouses and kids).

The Bible tells us that "It is appointed for you once to die, and then the judgement."

Dad lived this out to the 'T.'  Even in his pain, he tried to make small jokes.  As he drifted in and out of confusion, it was not clear how much he understood, but when we sang, we could hear noises from Dad as he kept the tune, but which he could not get his mouth to sing the blessed words of the songs we sang together.

Dad was mentally and spiritually ready for death, and his failing body was taking him there.   How many times I got up in the middle of the night and wondered if Dad had been taken from us.  But each time I could hear his breathing.  Not this time, then....

The last few days were a total blur to me.

Dad's groaning and mental confusion were disturbing, but our main task was to help Dad be as at peace as he could.  We fell back on prayer and reading scripture aloud and hugging Dad and telling him just how much of a privilege it was to care for him and Mum.

On Saturday the 13th of August, we started Dad on a new set of medications.  They seemed to work a bit, as Dad's groans subsided.  But the pain did not fully disappear, and so we continued to touch and massage his feet and back, and pray for Dad.

His breathing was stronger than before, but still enough of a problem to require constant Tender Loving Care.   Dad clearly relaxed and his groans were so much softer.  After a while Dad drifted to sleep.

At 7.30 pm, Mum slipped into Dad's room and planted two kisses on Dad's forehead.  She wanted to do some journalling, and decided to do that in another room.

I had been talking and praying with bro Arbind Singh in the front room.

I quietly stepped into Dad's room to see how he was and noticed that he was very quiet.  Very, very quiet.

His breathing seemed to be quite soft.   I tried to hear his breathing or see him move, but he did not.   He was warm but I could not find a pulse.

I called up Dr. Tony and he came over immediately.  We looked at Dad and shone a light in his pupils. They were dilated.  Dad had died.

We said a short prayer and I went out to call Mum.  I brought her into the room and told her that Dad had gone to be with Jesus.

She held me and said: "Thank you Lord that Ray does not have to suffer anymore."


  1. Andi - Thank you as ever for your open and loving sharing. Yes, we all needed to know how Ray's last days were, so thank you for sharing the harrowing bits as well as the blessings. Our love to you all, especially dear Christa as she looks to the road ahead.

  2. Thank you Andi for sharing so honestly GOD has blessed you and Sheba with gr8 privilege of being there and lovingly ministering and caring for your dad through his last days. Praying for our LORD’s comfort and strength for your mum and all of you as you journey on in life. I am reposting a message which I think you didn't get.

    Dear Andi & Sheba, your dad's ditty on farewell reminded me of Eric Liddell's words of farewell (his mother's wise words) "Those who love GOD never meet for the last time.
    Praying for all of you
    In HIM

  3. Thanks Andi San, shocking, beautiful description.
    Thanks for being an inspiration of love, in this time with your dad with Sheba, as your dad is/was, to us all and our Lord is to us. Hope its all good there. Dad was sad to hear the news, he remembered your dad's name in his, alzheimers, curious hey ? You inspire me to take dad for more walks, dad's the same about walking, funny their generation.
    Lotsa love bro to you and your fams. We'll all catch up in heaven and have a crazy party soon. Send my love to your mum and that I'm thinking of her at this time. Your dad was a model of real love and sincere faith. Makes me feel like a procrastinator in mine. Hope to talk soon. How do I contact you guys ?

  4. These posts have been precious to me. I am old enough to know that this could be me at any time, and I could only pray that the kind of love you have displayed to your parents would be my experience should it be part of our Sovereign's plan for me.

    For this, we have Jesus! A constant friend. The speaker of peace to our souls. The One who finishes what He started in us at salvation, molding us into the image of the Beloved Son of God. Alleluia!

  5. What a beautiful blessing to read these moments in such detail. Thank you for taking the time to share this sacred journey with us. Know that our love and prayers are with you!