I went down stairs. I fed the dog and the cat. I went into Dad's room. I listened. I heard the grumbly breathing. Undaunted I started gathering Dad's stuff together. I put his things to put his leg on next to him on the bed. I got his other shoe and his sock and put them next to him. I didn't ask him if he wanted to got to Des Moines.
"We are going to go to the funeral home, then get some lunch, and then go over to see Ben" I told him matter of factly. He looked at me and the grumbly breathing got a little louder. I ignored it and kept getting things ready to go.
"We are going to have a quick breakfast today so we can get going." I told him. I went out to the kitchen and got a bowl of cereal, five prunes and some grapes ready for him. When he came out to the front room I poured the milk on his cereal and brought it out to him.
When he was finished and we'd brushed our teeth, I went in his room and got his wheel chair. The grumbly breathing got louder. I took the chair out the front door and down the steps. I came back in and told Dad I was going to move the car.
I came back in and Dad was pouting. I ignored him and said
"I'm ready when you are."
He looked at me. He didn't get up.
"I'm ready when you are," I repeated.
"I'm ready," he growled. He still didn't get up. I looked at him. His face was mad. He didn't want to go. The grumbly breathing was very loud.
"Well, lets go," I said cheerfully but firmly. He huffed, but he got up.
We drove into Des Moines and went to the funeral home. I really wanted Dad involved in the planning. I wanted it to be real for him. I wanted him to feel involved in the process. I didn't want him to feel left out. We looked around the chapel. We looked at caskets. The funeral director guided us thru the process.
When we were done there we went to lunch. We decided on Chinese food. I had a gift card for a restaurant so we decided to go there. The whole way there Dad tried to get me to go to a different restaurant. I told him I didn't have a gift card for that place. I told him that seven times. We ate at the restaurant where I had the gift card.
We got to the hospice house and found Ben's room. Two of Ben's friends were there, and my friend Kelley. Kelley had been sitting with Ben while Stacey, Dad and I were at the funeral home. She said friends had been in and out of Ben's room all day. I was glad. I knew we had made the right decision to bring him back to Des Moines.
Ben was breathing hard, but looked very comfortable. He had on a white t-shirt instead of a hospital gown. It was so nice to see him in anything but a hospital gown! He looked more natural.
Shane and Alyssa came. They sat down on the love seat in the room.
We all sat and talked for a while. It was relaxed and comfortable. We told stories about Ben. We laughed. It felt right. It felt calm.
Kelley had to leave. She said she would be back in the morning. She gave me a hug, and left.
Another friend of Ben's came. She was a friend from church. She brought a Scrabble tile holder with the word lovable spelled out in tiles and glued on. "It makes me think of Ben." She said.
Ben's breathing had become less regular. He was still breathing hard, but occasionally would stop for ten seconds or so. I checked his feet. They were cold and pale. His hands were still warm, but there was absolutely no grip. I grabbed a pillow, kneeled on the floor next to his bed and held his hand.
Dad was starting to get uncomfortable. He was starting his signals that he wanted to leave. I didn't want to go. I was pretty sure that Ben wouldn't make it through the night. I called Willie at work and asked if he could come get Dad. He got it figured out and headed our way, but it was a two hour drive from Coralville.
I went back into Ben's room and sat on the floor. I noticed his breathing was slowing and his apnec periods were getting longer. It was closer than I thought.
I kneeled down on the pillow again. I took Ben's hand. I stroked his hair. His breathing was slowing even more. Every other breath was followed by a long pause. I watched his face with each pause in breathing. I stroked his hair.
Ben took his last breath. His eyes opened, a reflex. I knew he was gone. I started to cry and hugged him. Right then Dad, who wasn't comprehending what was happening, told me to take him to the bathroom. I took him in and he sat down. I told him to give a yell when he was ready for me. I went back out to Ben. I kneeled back down on the pillow.
The nurse came in and listened to his heart. She listened, Ben gasped one or two more times. She kept listening. "I don't hear anything," she said. "No, I don't hear anything anymore."
Ben had slipped away from us. It was calm. It was painless. It was peaceful. He was free from the prison his body had become. He was no longer in pain. I kissed him on the fore head and cried.
Dad called for me to help him out of the bathroom. I went in and started to back out his chair. "What happened," he asked.
"Ben passed away," I answered through tears. I put him back at Ben's bedside.
Stacey and I started making the hard phone calls. She called Father Basil. He was in church services, she left a message. I called our Uncle Chris. Before I realized it he was standing at the door of Ben's room. I called Joshua and Valerie, i could hear their voices break when i told them. I called Kelley. She turned around to come back. We called others. Stacey called the people in Ben's phone. I called Father Ignatius, the Father that had come and prayed for Ben so many times while he was in Iowa City. So many people to call.
Arrangements were made to get Ben back to Iowa City for the autopsy. So many questions needed answers. We needed to know what happened.
Kelley got back to the hospice. She hugged me for a long time while I just cried.
Willie got to the hospice. I waited until he got there to tell him Ben had died. He held me and we walked down to the room.
Father Basil came and did a passing of the souls service. He sang and prayed over Ben. When he was done he sat down and talked with us. He told us the story of when he meant Ben. He was sad to lose Ben.
We sat and made more arrangements. Stacey called the funeral home and said we were ready for them to come pick him up. We decided not to wait for them.
I walked over and kissed his forehead again. We gathered our stuff together. We slowly walked to the door. I turned one last time. "Bye Ben." And I walked out the door.