On the afternoon of July 12, 2015 around 4pm as we were about to leave the house to go to a dinner BBQ at friends, the phone rang, a strange call, my sister was on the phone calling from NY City where she lives, she was in a panic and blurted out that our father was either dead or dying in Montreal. A few minutes prior to calling me she had received a call from the Hôtel Dieu Hospital telling her that our father was in a critical condition. He had gone out that afternoon to shop for some summer shoes at Holt Renfrew on Sherbrooke street, this was his favourite store. He was scheduled to go to Vermont to be with my sister and my brother-in-law for their Summer vacation. I was confused by the call and in the rush of her telling me what was happening I kept thinking how can you be dead or dying. Our Dad had not been in the best of health for several years, he had heart problems and COPD, his lungs were no longer functioning properly and every week he had to go to the hospital for treatment. But he refused to talk much about his health and did not elaborate much about it when we asked him. He was ok not to worry, had a team of good doctors he liked.
However that July 12 was a very hot and muggy day and when you have lung problems it is not the time to go out in the city. The muggy air of the streets did not help and arriving at the store inside was super cold with A/C. From what we were able to gather later, he felt un-well and collapsed, an ambulance was called and the first responders tried to revive him for over 30 minutes to no avail.
I remember my sister calling me a second time a few minutes after the initial call, I was rushing to get things organized to go to Montreal which is only 2 hours away by car from Ottawa. In the second call she had the hospital doctors on the line and I was told that despite best efforts, Dad had a very weak heartbeat and his lungs were not functioning. He was not going to recover, the doctors wanted to know what we wanted done. Should they continue to try to revive him despite no oxygen going to his brain, the doctor added that 45 minutes had now elapsed with this condition. At that moment I simply remembered what both he and Mom years before I told us repeatedly about no extra measures to revive in such a case. So it was decided to let him go. There was no anguish about making that decision, there was no hope, it was simply the cold reality of what had happened and knowing how Dad was a proud man, neither me or my sister could imagine not respecting his wishes and putting him on a respirator and other modern medical machines, that was not what he would have wished. Our parents also believed that when your time has come you simply accept it, it’s that simple.
I did get in the car shortly thereafter and drove like a maniac on the highway down to Montreal. I was hoping in a strange way that he would still be alive, but I knew that it was not going to be that way.
I arrived in Montreal around 7pm and was greeted by a nurse who told me right away that he had died. Yes I know I said to her. She then asked me if I would sign the forms for his release from the hospital to the care of the Medical Faculty of McGill University. It was just a simple formality, Dad had made all the arrangements with his team of doctors, all from McGill and the Royal Vic Hospital. I knew that, he had told me and I thought how organized he was. I was then shown to his room where he lay. My cousin who had always been close to my parents, was there waiting for me. Neither of us knew what to say. He looked as he always did when I observed him sleeping in his chair in the living room in the afternoon but this time it was different.
My sister was on her way to Montreal driving as quickly as possible she arrived around midnight exhausted. My brother arrived 2 days later coming from Florida and having difficulty arranging flights on extremely short notice.
After the hospital I went to his apartment in Westmount, it is only then that it hit me, seeing all his things arranged methodically, everything in order, that he would not be coming back to his home. I sat on the sofa and looked at his chair, I could feel his presence, all was quiet, peaceful.
Our mother had died two years previously in her sleep and he had predicted that he would be gone in two years. When he told me this, I scoffed, come on Dad don’t say things like that.
Today my sister is in Vermont on vacation at the cottage as she would have been back then had he not died. I spoke to her and she told me that she had been thinking of him all week. I too had been thinking of the approaching date. He would have been 90 years old this year.
At lunch with Dad at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.