10.22 nate and dad

On Monday morning, I stood by my father, Jim Hutchinson's, bed in the intensive care unit at Virginia Beach General Hospital.

A large mask covered most of his face, forcing oxygen into his lungs. His skin was yellowed. His hands were puffy.

Machines beeped.

Tubes carried fluids in and out of his frail body.

My father's 11-year battle with cancer was rapidly coming to an end.

He had lost the ability to talk, and when I arrived at the hospital the day before, my mother and I weren't able to get any kind of reaction from him.

He could barely open his eyes.

On Monday morning, he showed a few fleeting signs of life.

He reacted to my mother's questions by moving his head to answer — yes or no.

At her prompting, I reluctantly approached his bed.

I talked to him.

And then something happened that I will never forget.

His milky, white eyes opened wide and his black pupils focused directly on me.

He saw me.

He knew he was looking at his son.

I have no doubt.

His gaze locked in on me for what seemed like an eternity. I couldn't have moved, even if I wanted to.

He even made an attempt to raise his arms towards his face, as if he was trying to take off the mask and speak.

He was too weak, though.

The moment passed.

His strength faded and by the time I left, his eyes had closed again.

My daughter and wife arrived a few hours later. As they went up to his room, my mother joined me in the lobby.

Her demeanor had changed significantly.

She knew something was different.

Later, my mother would tell me she believed that was the moment that his spirit had left.

She said, "He was waiting for you to get here."

The doctor came in later that evening to discuss compassionate care. We all agreed it was time to let him go.

We gathered at the hospital on Tuesday at 8 a.m.

My father was given medicine to reduce pain and anxiety, then the mask was removed.

The doctor left the room and we waited.

It didn't take long.

Only about 10 minutes.

One last gasp for air and his body fell limp.

He was gone.

There were tissues to dry the tears. My wife and daughter left the room, leaving me, my mother and sister with him.

We stayed for a while.

My mother kissed him on the forehead. I held his hand one last time before I left.

We spent most of the rest of the day together around our family's house. We told stories, played games, looked at pictures, and even played records from dad's collection.

There weren't really many tears.

He had gone peacefully after so many years of pain and suffering.

His body had been crippled by operations, countless rounds of chemotherapy and dozens of other medical issues.

Through it all, he kept his spirit and his hope.

He never stopped fighting.

My father spent his whole life helping people and caring for others — even those he did not know.

He was a great man.

It was a life well-lived.

I will miss him so much, but I'm so glad I got to look into his eyes one last time.

I'm so glad he waited on me to get there.

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