On September 10, 2021, as the sun began to rise, the sun was setting on my father, Pedro Juan Hernandez Colon, as his battle with COVID-19 had ended with him leaving in peace. By that time, my family and I had accepted his fate and would no try to go against it and agreed to let the nurses and doctor let him go peacefully. Prior to this, though, I went through one of the worst existential and emotional meltdowns yet, one caused by inconsistent information overload, constant isolation, uncertainty and a lot more.
Both my mother and father were sent to the hospital due to being infected by COVID-19. Now I want to make this clear statement; I am not going to turn this into some sort of "SEE WHY THE VACCINES AND MASK ARE IMPORTANT?' because I feel it's neither here nor there. Yes, I know some get morbid joy out of watching anti-vaxxers and COVID deniers get their comeuppance and want to say "THEY HAD IT COMING", but I came at a point where trying to argue the effectiveness of the vaccine would be tone deaf as all of us just wanted to be home together and recover. Well, that was my naive mindset at first.
Mom had been more than staple and recovering, and because she was in a regular hospital room, I could talk to her and stay updated. She was alert despite everything so at least one worry was lifted. My father, however, was a much different story. He was a man that had almost every illness known to man; from cancer to diabetes, to bad kidneys, heart attacks and strokes. This is why the argument for vaccines was almost moot as his body was already way too weak to handle even basic treatment. So even if he looked like he would be recovering just like mom was, on a Sunday morning I was disrupted by my sister desperately banging on the door, and I half asleep went and saw her while she yelled "CALL MOM AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, DIED GOT WORSE OVERNIGHT, HE'S ON A VENTILATOR!", and then just ran off, while I ran to call mom to confirm it, and yes, he was put on a ventilator as his oxygen levels dropped severely overnight.
This is where the game of telephone as I like to call it began, both literally and metaphorically. You see, I am someone that likes to sleep with his turn off because I don't want any obnoxious alerts or spam calls from telemarketers to disrupt the sleep I can get. But this was a medical situation and because I was the only one in the family that was both readily available AND spoke fluent English, I had no choice but to keep it on. Thus began a series of painful, annoying, depressing and ultimately heartrending calls that lasted for WEEKS. When I say that this started the game of telephone, what I mean is that every day I would get a call from a different nurse or doctor taking care of dad in the Intensive Care Unit, thus giving me their take on how his condition was from day to day...or even hours to hours.
It was like if ten of my closest friends went to see the same movie over the weekend and they all told me what they thought of it and the opinions are WILDLY varied, but none exactly painted a clear picture of what I would expect from it. Some would say "OH HE'S DOING GREAT HE OPENED HIS EYES HE'S REACTING WELL TO MEDICATION" to "HE HAS NO LUNGS THE RONA ATE HIM ALIVE GET THE FUNERAL HOME READY!". This game of telephone drove my anxiety and emotions to their maximum level as being calm knowing he was fine one minute to then getting a call the same day to tell me that he was dying was like they intentionally grabbed my heart and pulled it in ALL directions to see how quickly they would break me.
And break me they did...Boy, they broke me something fierce. Let me tell you, I have had my fair share of heartrending moments where I have been told that I was useless and worthless to threats towards my family and all, things that would send someone over the edge. But this, it was a group effort but they did it. On the eve of my father's passing I was disturbed YET AGAIN by calls, this time saying that dad was dying...right after mom's doctor had seen him at the ICU and said that he was more than fine and recovering. I couldn't handle it anymore as I felt like everyone was trying to force an opinion of a reality that was not what was happening.
Thus, not only did I go through all the several stages of grief, I went through some other ones like imposter syndrome to survivor's guilt. For you see, I believed that this was some form of punishment for being selfish, that all the good things people said about me were lies as I was nothing but a worthless scam that just existed to make everyone else's lives worse. I believed I was a waste of oxygen, and that the one that should have been lying in bed dying with machines on me was me, not my father or my mother. I was constantly crying, having trouble breathing, could not eat, was short of vomiting and many other things. It may have been a legit Post Traumatic Stress Disorder episode as some friends would describe it.
It was hard to believe in anything as I felt nothing had value, everything was a lie, including my own life. But why did I drop that low? Was it a genuine thought that came out during a very dark moment that allowed it to over my heart, mind and soul, or was it a physical reaction to weeks worth of emotional stress caused by the uncertainty and misinformation by everyone? The answer would be a combination of both; yes, it WAS hard to believe in anything because I was given so many opinions, diagnosis and ideas that it confused my mind into a state of disbelief, but also my mind had been put through the ringer allow it to release my inner emotional demons.
On that night, I was able to recover thanks to the wisdom of an old dear friend of mine, and had calmed down and began to accept the fact that dad would pass away. But then we got another call; but this time it was different. It was a female doctor, she formally introduced herself, explained what her role was and gave me the actual story; dad was indeed dying and had very few breaths left in him. She calmly told me all of that not in a cynical, cold manner but in a manner that understood that I was being told something lifechanging. In other words; she treated me like a human being. As she said that the weight of reality started to set in, and asked me if should his heart stop should they perform CPR or let him go in peace. I talked to my mother and sister, and we all nodded in agreement to let him go in peace as he had suffered long enough, not just from COVID.
As the sun was rising on September 10, the sun had finally set on my father. It was a new reality that I now has to face and accept. Not only that, I had to take on a new role; be the representative that arranged the cremation services as well as my mother's confidant and own personal assistant during her recovery and in handling information, calls from friends and family and such. This began a new chapter in my life where the thing I feared most as a child was my reality as an adult, and it was both a humbling and empowering experience as well as equally tiring and stressful. But the more I did it, the more at peace I felt, and the more I talked to my friends about the great memories of my dad, the happier I felt. I had reached full catharsis by this point.
It's amazing how all it takes is what was likely a PTSD meltdown to make you realize how wrong you are about yourself and how strong and lucky you are. Will I have scars from this experience that I will have to address at some point? Most likely, but I learned so much from this, making me realize that sometimes life will force you to lead, even if you don't want to, and it can be a rewarding thing on its own right. I also came to this realization; no matter what I would have done, if it was going to happen, it was going to happen. We pretend to think that we have a lot of control of our lives and the lives of others, but even the best laid out plans can lead to failure and while many people would try to find someone to blame, themselves included, sometimes circumstances can say otherwise.
We all wish we could all live in a film in which if we were to experience failure, we could find a way to fix it. If the Avengers had lost the first time to Thanos and they saw half of the world snap away, they figured out a complicated way to use time travel to find a way to reverse what Thanos had done. In the film, they did it. But even when they did it, they still had to lose the lives of many beloved people, thus confirming that death is certain and for a life to live, sometimes one has to set. Morbid, I know, but my father has passed away. No amount of crying, praying, anger and resentment is going to bring him back. Even if I could go back in time to alert my future self of what would happen, chances are fate would still intervene to have the outcome be different but with the same results.
In this mindset, one may think that I am being cynical. But on the contrary; I am offering the most uplifting and optimistic way to cope with a major loss in my life, all things considered. I believe that I will have episodes in which I will be hit by grief and some intrusive thoughts may come in at the worst time. But feeling sorry for myself, feeling angry, or resentful can't change anything, so the best thing to do is...live my best life. My father lived his life, I was part of it. Now that his life has ended, it's my time to keep living my life. Even with this loss I feel these has been the best years of my life, being able to find friends that love and accept me for who I am, love my eccentricity, and discover sides of myself that were hidden or were newly discovered. I am thankful that dad was able to be part of it and eventually came to love me for who I was rather than feel disappointed that I was not the "ideal son" he sometimes would bemoan in his younger years.
My words, of course, don't reflect everyone's own journeys in life as many either just pretend it never happened or instead be ridden by grief till the end of their days, and that's something to respect as the least I want is to be like those doctors and nurses who kept calling me to try and dictate how I should react to whatever was going on with that. But sometimes the pain numbs, especially if you let it numb.
I know you said you nearly had a breakdown, but even so your stability through constant trying circumstances has been admirable. I can only hope I have as much clarity and strength to do as well when it happens for me.
I'm sorry for your loss, but I think you made the right choice under the circumstances, as hard as I'm sure it was. I'm sure your father would be proud if he fully realized just what a wise and kind son he'd raised.