By David King
It had been nearly ten years since my mother had passed. She was overcome in so many ways all at once it seemed: cancer; COPD, heart disease. The doctor called my brother and me into the hospital hallway. “Six Months,” is all he said. Our father sat in the hospital room next to our Mom holding her hand. The doctor left it up to us to tell her. “Mom, they say you have six months,” I said as it somehow fell to me as her eldest son to tell her the news. “Humph,” is all she said. Dad began to pray. She died 18 days later.
We had all secretly hoped that Dad would go first because he was one of those men who absolutely needed a woman to tell him what to wear, what to eat, and what to do. It wasn’t an insult to him, he thought it was a blessing. But now with Mom gone, he was alone – and very lost without her.
About the same time, we experienced a caretaker who turned out to be very unpleasant and that was it for me. I loaded Dad into the car and we went looking for an assisted living establishment – one where he would be fed and cared for properly.
We found a place that was perfect for him. His older brother was already a resident so he and Dad were quite a hit at the place. They would sing and rock in their chairs to the entertainment of residents and staff alike. Quite a pair those two – reunited after decades. Life was good. That is until Dad fell and crushed his spine.
The next year was spent with endless visits to a series of doctors, rehab centers, and pain medication. He stayed in his room most of the time but my brother and I would visit him several times a week. Each time we did, we’d give two quick knocks on his door, open it and say hello. We’d ask how he felt and the answer he gave was always the same: “Great! I feel good!” he’d say. We knew it was a lie, but he never admitted his pain. Not once. But each time we visited, we’d give our two little knocks and enter only to see him deteriorate little by little – more and more each time we came. The once proud, strong, and stubborn man was slowly being reduced to an inert being. He couldn’t walk. He often had trouble swallowing. The conversation became difficult and soon impossible as he would doze off to sleep mumbling about seeing a bright red light during the war he had fought in decades before.
One day the nurse called to say that Dad had developed called a ‘Kennedy Ulcer.’ A “Kennedy Ulcer?” I asked. “Yes, it’s definitely a Kennedy Ulcer,” She replied. It was only after a Google search and research on WebMD that I learned that this lesion was a sign of impending death. Still, my brother and I would come to see him. Two knocks, and an entry. Two knocks and an entry. But he couldn’t tell us he was “Great!” anymore. He just laid there as we sat with him. “Dad, you’re going to see Mom again soon,” I finally told him one day. A slight smile was clearly detectable. Days passed.
When the phone rang, and I saw that it was my brother and he was calling from Dad’s room, I knew. “I think he’s gone,” he said. I rushed to Dad’s room. You know, even when you expect the death of a loved one, it is still a shock when it finally comes. I walked into the room and fell to my knees by his bedside. I kissed his forehead and then began to sob uncontrollably. Finally, I regained my composure and we all just stood around his bed. There was my brother, my sister-in-law, Dad’s nurse, and me. We just stood there looking at him. There were tears streaming down everyone’s face at his bedside.
Suddenly there was a clear knock at the door. In fact, it was two loud taps… knock, knock. We all heard it and wondered who would be at the door. We were already there, the doctor had left, and the nurse was there. Who else could it be? As we waited, the nurse went to the door and after a moment or two, she came back to Dad’s bedside; the color had drained from her face. “When I opened the door,” she said, “There was no one there. No package. No one in the hallway. No one.
You see those two knocks meant it was Dad. He was telling us that he was finally home and feeling just “Great!”
Dave King is a Port Huron native and 35 year veteran of law enforcement serving in various policing capacities including uniform patrol, investigations, supervision, training, and administration. His experience includes serving as a chief of police and a director of public safety in localities across the nation with service populations from 5,000 to over 2,000,000. Dave also served at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to lead the Center’s rapid response team, forensic division, and cold case division.
Dave has been a training consultant to the U.S. Department of Justice, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and Penn State University. He holds a Master’s Degree from Michigan State University, and is a graduate of the F.B.I. National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. For the past several years he has served as an instructor in Criminal Justice Programs at St. Clair County Community College, in Port Huron.
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