I whispered, ‘Dad I still need you. Today, you fight.’ He looked at me with his kind eyes and shook his head.’: Adopted daughter’s emotional tribute to her quadriplegic dad on his death bed

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“’Faith, make sure you’re writing this down. I don’t have much, but Mom is going to be okay.’

I write to you a love story. But this story is of truth, suffering and endless love.

‘It felt like an electrical shock went through my body. Then I started sink, slowly.’

‘I couldn’t move.’

He remembers the little fishies, ‘they kept me alert.’ Each little pinch to the face. They kept him alive. Aware.

He was 23 years old. 23, with the whole world in front of his eyes. But life was passing, and he was drowning.

It was July 11th, 1980.

I’ll let him recap it for you.

July 12th, 2012.

‘It was 32 years ago today I woke up in Victory Memorial Hospital Intensive Care Unit. That was when my doctor informed me, I definitely needed to work on my diving skills. I was once asked, ‘If you could have a do-over on July 11th, 1980, would you?’ I told him I would love to, but only if I was married to my wife, Donna, had a son named Billy, a daughter named Faith, and twin grandsons named Cashton and Cameron. Other than that, no way, God is good.

This, my friends, is Kerry – my Father. Faith, that’s me, the daughter and momma to those babies – Cam and Cashie. Yes, my twin boys.

My Mom and Dad were high school sweethearts. If you ask my mom, she’ll tell you before the accident my dad was her saving grace. See, my dad rescued my mom from a dysfunctional family. She was the eldest of four and my dad helped my mom to raise her brothers and sisters.

He was her knight in shining armor. Till that day in July when he broke his neck – Their world shattered. Or maybe it should have shattered, but it didn’t.

My mom stood by my father, even as a quadriplegic. She had just finished nursing school. She knew she could do this. Even if she was only in her early 20’s. Many told her not to, ‘It will be too much, he’s too much work’.

But they did it. Together. Something began to take place in their lives. Things that were frustrating were becoming simpler. For instance, the way in which they would react towards people’s ignorance of my dad’s disabilities, changed from anger to understanding.

And for my dad, it was no longer about what he couldn’t do, but rather what he could do. My dad realized that all of the prayers to God about helping to make him better were answered. Not in the way he expected, rather, in a more rewarding way. God’s way.

My dad would say, ‘Now I am better, not in the sense I am no longer physically handicapped, rather in the sense that I am no longer spiritually handicapped.’

He would go on to say, ‘I sought the Lord seeking a cure for my disabilities, that I would have a more comfortable life here on Earth, He has given me the comfort in knowledge that I may serve him better just as I am. Because of my Faith, I believe he helps me overcome life’s obstacles whether physical or mental, and by doing so I am indebted to him. I sincerely believe that I could never have been the representative of God’s love and Glory as effectively as I am today.’

So, in November of 1984 they married.

My dad would always say, ‘Donna is more than my wife. She’s my best friend, and I thank God every day for her.’

See, my dad went back to school to get a communications degree and to pursue his writing. The man could write, and story-tell so well.  My mom worked and was able to care for my dad as well. And throughout life they leaned on each other and God.

Isn’t this what all beautiful love stories are made of?

They adopted my brother and I not being able to have kids of their own. That was an uphill battle all of its own. A quadriplegic man, but how could he care for these children? A judge seriously asked my dad that question. I’m sure my dad answered with a sweet disposition, in a calming way. After all, that’s who he is.

Needless to say, I am my father’s daughter.

Courtesy Faith Riemer
Courtesy Faith Riemer

This past November 2018 was the start to something I never wanted to live beyond. My Dad went into the hospital for what us family called ‘maintenance surgery’. His body over the last four years was failing him.

Doctors always looked at my dad as a medical miracle. A quadriplegic, diabetic still living after 38 years in a wheelchair. But to me, he was my knight in shining armor who always prevailed. Of course, it was because of my mother’s tender love and care.

Courtesy Faith Riemer

My dads ‘maintenance’ surgery ended up in a downward spiral. I remember the last bronchoscopy; they weren’t able to put him under general anesthesia. He would be awake, and we had to make sure we knew what he wanted and didn’t want. He didn’t want to be trached. He wanted a DNR. My dad couldn’t talk at this point having a Bi-pap on, so I told him. I whispered, ‘Dad I still need you. So, you fight, today you fight.’ He looked at me with his all-too-kind eyes and shook his head (yes, he would fight).

Courtesy Faith Riemer

It was in the hall, for the first time ever, I fell to my knees and prayed.

He made it through that Bronchoscopy, and when he seemed to be doing alright, I went up to him. I looked at him and said, ‘See Dad, you did it, I knew you could do it.’ Slowly he looked to me and said, ‘Ya Faithie, but I’m so tired.’

I looked to him and said, ‘I know Daddy, I know.’

And with that, I couldn’t ask him to fight again.

Those next 24 hours were a blur. My dad was discharged on Palliative care. It was being switched to hospice, because before he left, we were told his kidneys were failing.

I got a call from my mom saying to pick up his meds and meet at their house. I was confused, he was coming home?!

My mom gently told me he had signed the DNR.

I arrived at my parent’s; it was the day before Thanksgiving.

I sat alongside my aunt and family and they talked of having Thanksgiving here, tomorrow.

I told them, he’s not going to make it. I had this overwhelming feeling. Everyone said, ‘No he’s okay, he’s home.’ I walked into my dad’s room and just sat with him as he laid there.

He was feeling anxious, we gave him his meds and I sat there listening to his favorite show in the background. It was then he told me he couldn’t breathe. To get Mom.

The next 45 mins lead to a sh*t show.

I gave him CPR while singing ‘Stayin’ Alive.’ Screaming at my mom to give him breaths between.

Finally, the paramedics arrived, it felt like eternity.  He still had a heartbeat. But looked to be unconscious.

Fast-forward to the ER. ‘He won’t make it through the night’.

After not knowing what to do, my mom asked me. I said we need to ask Dad. I truly didn’t care if it looked like he was in a vegetative state. He answered us. ‘Hospice.’ We phoned my grandparents to say their goodbyes and they told my Dad it was ‘okay, he could go home.’

Those last 5 hours were excruciating. I cried, pleaded, then prayed for God to take him home. My dad waited, as my husband walked through the doors. My husband asked, ‘When did he pass?’ Me, ‘Right now’.

My dad was my everything in life, and I knew my dad waited for the man he knew could hold me through this wretched pain.

Courtesy Faith Riemer

And within the loss I revert back to childhood.

When my Parents adopted me, adoption agencies would turn them down because of my dad’s disability. They continued the search. ECFA accepted them and they were hopeful.

While adopting me, the day of my Legal Adoption, a judge looked at my father and asked, ‘How will you take care of her?’

I don’t know exactly how he responded to that Judgement and Judge that day. I’m sure it was with kind words and a positive outlook. He fought for me before we barely knew one another.

Daughter. He knew what we’d become.

It comes full circle.

Before he passed.

Father,

Between chest compressions, me – trying to save his life.

Dad –

I just kept fighting.  You fought for me in the beginning and I you, in the end. I love you Dad and I miss you. I know God is good even through this. Again, I just miss you. Love comes to us whether from the beginning or to the end. In life, there is love. Recognize the love and hold it, as long as you can.”

Courtesy Faith Riemer

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Faith Riemer, 32, of Illinois. Follow her journey on Instagram here.  Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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