Losing a relative is always painful and it is something we all have to go through sooner or later. It is something our mind blocks until we are forced to deal with it the hard way. I couldn’t imagine how heart-breaking a sudden loss can be, but if you escort a parent into death, it will become soul-crushing and you wish it would have been a sudden, unexpected death. Seeing a loved person suffer is the worst thing I ever had to handle.

When you are coming home to see your fatally ill dad and you are getting shocked since he has changed so much. He is looking so different, thin and weak in his bed. He has trouble to move his arm since he hasn’t eaten anything for more than a weak. Mom tells you he is unable to swallow currently and can’t drink anything anymore and starts to wet his lips with a tiny wet sponge. Then you are looking into the eyes of this man which has been so strong previously. You are looking into his eyes and you can see a shadow of a smile since he recognizes you. He knows you are there, you came to see him, to support him. In this moment you are feeling so sorry for him, so deeply sorry.

Then he wants to say something to you. But because of his weakness he can’t speak clear anymore and you can not understand him. You are asking him to repeat it, once, twice, three times and you don’t understand him. You can see that he is trying so hard and desperate to tell you something, but you don’t understand it. This feeling of helplessness hits you like a hammer. You can see in his eyes that he wants to say something important to you since he knows he will not be able to talk anymore soon. You are looking into these beseeching eyes and then you see within these eyes how he gives up since he is realizing you will not receive the message. I don’t have words for this heart-breaking feeling.

I think back, two weeks ago, I was registered for a cross-country skiing marathon. I didn’t want to participate since I had a cold and had injured my knee which destroyed the meniscus partially. But these cross-country skiing competitions made him so proud of me. I didn’t want to disappoint him. I knew this would have been my last chance to make him proud of me regarding to this. So I went there and when crossing the starting line I said: “Dad, this is for you.” and his thoughts carried me over the entire distance of 42km and I was faster than ever before and not even my knee made me problems.

And now I am sitting at the bed of this weak and skinny man, which has been my dad. He is losing all his muscles and fat since he can not eat nor drink. The cancer made him so weak. His mouth is open since this way he can breath better and the muscle which closes the mouth doesn’t work anymore. Mom is trying desperate to keep his mouth wet since the breathing dries him out very fast. Every careless water drop makes him cough since he lost the ability to swallow and his eyes express how painful this is. Each breath makes a noise like snoring, but he is not sleeping. Even if he can’t move a hand anymore, his eyes tell me he’s awake and realizing what is happening around him. He’s locked in a weak and helpless body. Each breath is so immense exhausting, costs him so much strength. I want to help, but don’t know how. We are calling the doc, again, as so many times before and he is explaining again what is happening in his body. “His journey as almost over” he said finally. And this is what I feel too.

The only thing I can do is to sit with him, holding his hand, giving him the feeling he’s not alone. At times it feels like he his pushing my hand back, very slightly, but I am not sure. I look into his eyes, they are following me a bit, looking at me expressing a sadness I have not known before. And later on, his eyes turn more and more blur and don’t follow me anymore. But for some reason I can’t explain, I feel he is still with me, recognizing that I am there.

He is fighting, fighting for each single breath. He can’t let go somehow and I start wishing that his suffering will have an end soon. His breathing becomes weaker and slower and at times one or more breath is skipped at all. Breathing pauses from ten and more seconds at times, silence. I am looking at my mom, she is looking at me, and then his breathing restarts, comes back and the suffering continues, hour for hour. Only skin and bones are left from the strong man who has been my dad.

And then during another breathing pause, the silence stays…….  and his journey ends here. We are closing his eyes, trying to close his mouth, but it doesn’t stay closed. And then we say good bye to him, silently.

It is too late to call a doctor to attest the death, so we leave him, his dead body in the bed until the next morning. The dimmed light, his unnatural skin color, his open mouth and the burdensome silence make the entire scene appearing surreal. It is over.

Nobody found sleep that night. When coming back into his room in the early morning the definitiveness of the happenings last night became more and more real. It feels like being strangled when he has been carried out of the house and the car slowly drove away with him, leaving an emptiness in our souls. This is so deep and so final and I do not know if the scars from these days will heal some day. Probably never entirely. Some feelings and pictures have been burned into my mind. And now, he is driving away in a car with black windows. Thinking back I was leaving so many times this place and he stayed there, waved to me with a smile. And now I am staying here and he is leaving. I am lifting my hand, but I am not able to wave …

… he will never come back.