Mudty Relationships: An Essay in Closure - Part 9

This post is part of an 11 part essay that I have written in memory of my father, Tod “Mudty” Eaton, who passed away in August 2018. On this blog, I had previously shared the eulogy I gave at his Celebration of Life, which I think was a meaningful public goodbye to him.  This essay though is a bit more complex and nuanced in drawing out the final days of my father’s passing and how I reconciled his life, his death, and our relationship.  It’s a deeply personal essay that I have spent many hours on for the past year and with the encouragement of kind friends, have chosen to share.  

Additionally, if you feel so moved, I would encourage you to donate to my fundraiser for Care Dimensions, the hospice home that made his final days more comfortable for all of us.  
Tod Eaton holding a black cat with some angst in his face.
Tod Eaton and Bear the Cat, circa 2014

Part 9: Passing

His breathing slows to one breath a minute. I time the breaths to understand how close he is. My mom holds his hand, the rest of us sit or stand around his bed. His breathing has changed significantly in the last few moments and we all notice.

His breath has slowed in these last two days in the hospice home. Barely conscious upon his arrival in the hospice home, he has now been unconscious for the last 36 hours of his life. His lungs gasp for air like a person emerging from water after nearly drowning. His body expends its remaining energy after two days without food or drink.

I watch him take a breath and my mother lets go of his hand to answer a phone call. She steps out of the room onto the patio and the well-manicured yard that the hospice has created to allow for rooms to feel homey and comfortable.

He has finished breathing. We wait for one minute and then two minutes. My brother and I look at each other and then stand. He takes the pulse in his neck and nods to me. I walk outside and my mom sees me approach. As I get closer, she ends her call and looks to me.

“He passed.” I say and as she begins to mouth words, I embrace her, “He breathed his last breath while you were holding his hand. When you left, he left. He was surrounded by all of us together and fully loved.” I can’t get the words out quick enough because she needs to know or rather I need her to know. I walk her back to the room and we all stand around the bed, while my mother approaches his side.

Tears well in many of our faces and we look to one another with knowing and caring looks. We sing the chorus to Steam's "Na na na na, hey, hey, goodbye"--not out of spite, but out of love. He told us that this is how he would like to go; we made sure to honor such an oft-repeated wish.

After a few moments, we leave the room so that my mom can have a private moment with her partner and husband of over forty years. We are sad but feel relieved that his suffering has ended and that he went in three short weeks.

She calls us back in and we each say our goodbye as best as we know how. Shortly afterwards we work through the logistics. We talk to the nurse to figure out next steps, and we pack the innumerable objects around the room. Spacious as the room was, three of us kept him company for the last 48 hours, while four others came for long stretches; so, there’s much to pack up--mostly food, clothing, and supplies we thought we might need.

It’s been a long three weeks, filled with many emotions, meaningful exchanges, and numerous acts of kindness. But now, we move into celebrating--not mourning--my father, Tod “Mudty” Eaton. Because to mourn him would do a disservice to him; we look to how we can give him a sendoff that he would have been happy to attend himself.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  If you haven't read the essay in full or have missed previous parts, feel free to navigate to other parts from the links below:

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