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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

My Father's Death

The last time I wrote you all concerning my father, I wrote in thanksgiving for all of your prayers. I call upon your generosity in giving them once again, knowing that this will be the last time that I write you concerning my father's health, barring a miracle.

On Sunday, June 18, 2006, Father's Day, I called home at about 6PM to wish him the best. He was not doing too well. He was struggling to speak clearly, even to speak at all. The humidity and his other activities had worn him completely out. After attending Mass in the morning, he was practically confined to one spot, because he was too weak to do anything else. We talked about the usual things: life, jobs, the Faith, family, and recent events. It was one of the shortest conversations that I've had with him in some time. The previous week, we talked about all of the above for about an hour. This week, the conversation barely lasted fifteen minutes.

At 11PM the same day, he was taken to the hospital. He was light-headed on top of having shortness of breath. At first, we thought it may be pneumonia or bronchitis. He stayed there overnight, where he was hooked up to the machines, and he started to feel better. He got up and took a shower Monday afternoon, but the shower wore him out, so he went back to bed. He had made some slight improvements, but he was slurring his words more than ever. He was confused, and was otherwise in really bad shape. That afternoon, the doctor told Mom and Dad that there was nothing else that they could do. Dad was "living on borrowed time", as they put it, and all they could do was prolong the inevitable. From what I understand, they kept him in the hospital for one more night, and then released him the next morning. By the way, he had neither pneumonia nor bronchitis...

Elizabeth, my twin, had called him in the morning, and he sounded strong. There was no cause for concern, as he was doing well. He was released from the hospital about 12:45 and returned home. He was able to walk from the car to the house and sat in his wheel chair. He was going to lay down as he was tired, but when he tried to lay down he said he felt like he could not breathe. He wanted to go out to the den. Some time ago, he had set up a shrine there, consisting of a crucifix, a picture of Our Lady, and a statue of St. Joseph. He sat there for a while to read and pray as he was able. He wanted to sit in his wheelchair because he could get much closer to the shrine.

He lost control of his bodily functions and fell out of the chair. Mom tried to get him up by herself, but she couldn't so she called James, my twin sister's husband. He came right over with the kids, and they managed to get him up. They wanted to put him into his rocking chair, but he insisted upon going back into his wheelchair. He didn't stay there long, and he fell out again. Once again, they recommended that he sit in his rocking chair, but he wanted the wheelchair. He fell a third time, and a third time, he was put into the same place.

Jane, my older sister, called me at about 6:00PM to let me know everything that had been going on, and she wanted to know how long it would take me to get to an airport.

Meanwhile, James had A.J. and Anya there (my nephew and niece), so he had to deal with answering the phone, wondering why the kids were being so quiet, as well as keeping an eye on Dad. He was sitting near Dad, when he realized that he didn't hear him breathing. James called Dad's name, and he woke up as though he had been asleep. I don't know how many times this happened, but the last time it happened, Dad took one last deep breath, and that was all. He had stopped breathing. Mom and James called his name again and again, but to no avail. His pulse was gone, and he wasn't responding to any stimuli. This was at 6:15PM, Tuesday, June 20, 2006.

Previously, Mom had been trying to get in touch with a priest. She finally had gotten in touch with Father Asher at about 5:00 PM, and he came as quickly as he could, but due to traffic, he didn't get there until 6:45PM. This was the second time that he had been called upon to administer Last Rites in two weeks. The poor priest was on vacation.

Sometime around 6:15, Jane had called home to find out how Dad was doing. She said that she was hurrying as fast as she could. James told her that he didn't think it was necessary. She asked him why she shouldn't hurry, and he said that it wasn't necessary to hurry. Flustered, she wanted to speak to Mom, but James told her that she didn't want to talk to anyone. Finally, she asked him what was going on. So, in plain English, he told her the reason why she had no need to hurry.

Since before he died, Mom and James had to hold Dad's body up in his wheelchair. He could not support himself. After he passed away, they continued to support him for Father Asher. The minute Fr. Asher was done administering Extreme Unction, he told them to call 911. Paramedics and police officers arrived at the house in minutes. At this point, Dad was clearly dead. They wanted to try to revive him, but Dad had made his final wishes clear: when he died, he does not want to be revived. If he came back to life, it would be by God's Will.

Only Mom and James had been there for Dad in his final moments. Jane and her husband, Gilbert, and their baby girl Hannah, were fighting traffic to get there, as was Elizabeth. I was also absent, over twelve hundred miles away in Virginia.

After Jane got off the phone with James, she called me, with flight arrangements. I was to leave from Baltimore/Washington International airport on Wednesday at 6:50AM and arrive in Dallas at about 1PM.

Elizabeth finally arrived at the house just as Father Asher was beginning the Last Rites. Jane arrived after the Last Rites and since a paramedic was holding Dad in the chair at the time she asked if she could do that. Shortly after that the police restricted all access to Dad's body. James & Gilbert asked permission to move him from his wheelchair to lying on his back on a sheet on the ground. They wrapped him up until the coroner got there, at which point, they began examining the body. Jane had not gotten a chance to say goodbye to Dad, and the police were not allowing anyone into the room, but they made an exception, as long as she didn't touch his body.

They finally took Dad's body away about 9:30. Jane and her family and Elizabeth and her family all left at the same time, because Mom wanted to be alone.

Today, June 21, 2006, would have been his 68th birthday.

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My Mom is a very strong woman. God has blessed her many times over in that regard. She is handling this sudden loss very well. Your prayers mean a lot for all of us. I know that some of you already know, and have already called me to let me know that you are praying, and I would like to thank you already. Without your prayers, I don't know how my family could be getting by after losing such a great man.

God love and bless you all.

Anthony Smitha

Reqiem aeternam dona eis Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Requiescat in pace. Amen.

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