August 31 (continued…)
As Akhil’s body shut down, our oldest daughter, Ashley, left work and went to Portland to pick up our youngest daughter, Jordan, so they could come home to say “good-bye”. Akhil seemed to be in such a precarious state that I wondered if they would make it home in time. I called Corinne to let her know what was going on. We agreed that we would video call when her sisters arrived. In the meantime, I sat alone in silence beside Akhil. How I wish he could talk. I would have loved to have known what he was thinking. Years ago, when he could talk, we would frequently ask each other, “What are you thinking?” Many times the answer would be a deep, intellectual one like, “I am wondering if each neighborhood would adopt a homeless family, would that end homelessness?” and other times something totally silly like, “I was thinking about a Ted Drewes' chocolate Snicker bar concrete with hot fudge on top and wishing I had one right now.” At this point, I feel like if Akhil could respond, he could go either way – contemplative or ridiculous. If you know him and his sense of humor, I am sure you understand. If I were him, I think I would be making a list in my mind of everything I would want to ask God.
My thoughts are interrupted when Ashley and Jordan arrived. They let their dad know they were here. His eyes remained slits, neither opening nor closing. Ashley grabbed her guitar so we could sing some of Akhil’s favorite worship songs. Jordan video-called Corinne and put the phone where Akhil could see Corinne. His eyes opened wide letting us know that he was aware that his girls were all present. They shared the wonderful memories they would always have of him and each said, good-bye”. Ashley led us in a few songs. We got off the phone with Corinne and Jordan asked, “Now what?”. I told her, “We wait. But you don’t have to.” Jordan seemed relieved that she didn’t have to stay to witness her dad’s last breath so she chose to go back to school.
Ashley and I watched the movie, “PS I Love You”. In case you don’t know the story, a man dies of cancer but had the foresight to leave a year’s worth of notes and surprises for his wife to help ease her in to the time of living without him. It made me think of Akhil just because he was romantic like that. I hope he heard the movie. I told him it made me think of him and how romantic he always was which I am sure made him smile inside. After the movie, I got up to turn Akhil and get him comfortable. Ashley picked up her guitar and the two of us sang “How He Loves”. It was the same song we sang right after Akhil shared the news of his ALS diagnosis. It was only fitting that the first song we sang when ALS entered our lives was also the last one Akhil would hear as the journey ended.
“He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.
And oh, how He loves us oh
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all…”
Ashley and I retired to our beds early, emotionally exhausted. I got up at five to check on Akhil and was surprised to find him still breathing. I tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t so I got up at six and gently turned him to his other side and kissed him on the cheek, a tear in my eye. I threw in a load of laundry. While I was getting the laundry started, I felt as if Akhil said “good-bye”. Unfortunately, I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I went for a run to de-stress. When I got back around 8, I checked on Akhil and found that he was not breathing. I called hospice to let them know that he had passed away. I don’t doubt that at that moment, when I felt him say “good-bye”, his soul left this earth. We were that connected.
I gazed out my bedroom window at the street below where a woman was walking. My eyes filled with tears as I recalled countless Saturdays I spent wistfully looking out that window longing to be outside instead of trapped in my bedroom taking care of Akhil. Sadly, I would have that freedom today.