Thursday, April 04, 2019

Just 41 Days

It was 15 years ago yesterday, April 4th, 2004, a Sunday that I got a call from my cousin Vickie Daugherty. She had been visiting my folks and Daddy wasn't feeling well. The doctor had recommended that Mama take him to the ER because he was dehydrated. Cousin Vickie was at the ER with them. We dropped everything and went, thinking it was not anything serious. His pulmonologist was treating what he thought was a bad case of bronchitis with IV antibiotics (at home with a home health nurse) and the antibiotics were messing his stomach up. Dehydration, that was all. He was 79.

After a couple hours, an IV and some routine tests they did a chest x-ray to make sure the bronchitis hadn't turned into pneumonia. When they compared it to another x-ray done the previous October they had a shock that they revealed to us. Cancer.

Two large tumors in Daddy's lungs.

The next few days were filled with test after test, blood tests, CAT scans, PET scans, worry about what the tumors were, what type of cancer, how fast it was spreading, where else it might be.
It was everywhere. His pulmonologist, Dr Wagshal, knew the family well. I had called on him as a pharmaceutical rep hundreds of times. My sister in law and I went to him for our asthma. The doctor called me on Wednesday and told me he was going to talk with Daddy the next morning. Sister in law Brenda Hollen and Brother Mike talked to him also. It was bad news, terrible news. Daddy had maybe 6 months.

I talked with Brother Mike and we decided to be there when the doctor told Daddy. We talked for a long time, quiet more than once as Jimmie Hollen's boys realized their hero was dying.
Mama wasn't there yet. Dr. Wagshal had know Daddy for years and as he sat on the side of Daddy's be he took Daddy's right hand in his and held it as he told him the terrible prognosis... maybe 6 months.

Daddy cried, one of the few times I ever saw his tears. Brother Mike and Brenda had gone into the hall to make some calls. Daddy looked at me and asked, "Is there any pills for cryin'?"
My reply, "No, Daddy, there are no pills for cryin'. I think sometimes God wants us to cry."

Brother Mike and I went to tell Mama. She was a mess, as expected. She was angry that she hadn't been there, hollered and told us we were terrible for excluding her.

But Daddy had told us what HE wanted as the diagnosis and prognosis was being confirmed. That was my priority.

We had talked with Dr. Wagshul (who knew Mama well also) and he had recommended not having her there when he told Daddy. (We lost her last year, and though I love her, she suffered all her life with chronic depression and tended to make things all about her. Daddy just didn't want a terrible scene) As I mentioned, Daddy had asked me to let him know first if it was bad news, before Mama knew.

41 days after the initial discovery Daddy was gone. Just 41 days. What happened to the "maybe 6 months"? We didn't have 6 weeks, that was even a day short.

Daddy was not much of a talker, wasn't the demonstrative type. Prior to his final 41 days I would say, "Love you Pappy" or when I was younger, "Love you Daddy" (Daughter Kelly Jean Hollen always called him Pappy and Daddy became Pappy after her birth in 1989) and he would say, "Same here".
During those last days, every time I told Daddy I loved him he said, "I love you". He told me he loved me more during those last days than I had ever heard in my life. What a precious treasure each "I love you too" was.

Early one morning a couple weeks before Daddy lost that battle, I got a call from Mama. Daddy had tried to go from the bed to his wheelchair (he lost the strength to walk very quickly) and had slid to the floor. Mama was unable to get him back up and he was too weak to even help her.
When I got to the condo and went back to the bedroom I saw Mama sitting on the side of the bed with Daddy on the floor and leaning against her. She was gently brushing her fingers through his hair. I had never noticed how thin his hair was getting till that day. Looking back at photos we can now see Daddy had been sick for some time.

It was so hurtful to see Daddy sitting there, but my heart was full as I saw my Mama supporting him and loving on him.

He apologized for getting me out of bed, said, "My ol' legs just won't go no more." I put my hands under his arms and lifted him back onto the bed and then into his chair. He wasn't able to help at all.
I would have carried my Daddy anywhere he needed to go that day, any day.
May 15, 2004, just 41 days later Daddy went home to be with his Lord. It just wasn't enough time for any of us.

Brother Mike and I were always Jimmie Hollen's boys. Always will be.

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