They were able to revive him and transport him to the hospital, but he was in a coma from that point on.
Leslie and I were called at around 2:40 AM, washed up, threw a bag of clothes together, and drove all night, arriving at the hospital before 9 AM Saturday morning.
Once all the family was gathered at his bedside and had said our final goodbyes, ventilation and all support, other than a morphine drip for comfort, were removed at approximately 11:30 AM.
We were told that death would not come immediately. Maybe it would be a few minutes, maybe a few hours. As he hung on, that became "twelve hours, tops." Then, "by early Sunday morning." Despite all odds and expectations he held on another twenty-eight hours with family by his side.
At 3:12 PM on Sunday, December 9, 2012, our father opened his eyes one last time and died looking into the eyes of our mother, his beloved Judi.
(What follows is a rough transcript of what I said Tuesday, in eulogy, at my father's funeral:)
In trying to decide what story to share with you all today, I wanted to share something that wasn't just personal, but a story that really explains who my father was; something to demonstrate his character. And what came to mind wasn't an early childhood memory, but something from just a couple of months ago.
As I'm sure you all know, Dad had been suffering from Alzheimer's for several years. Alzheimer's is heartless and relentless and was slowly taking him away from us.
It took away memories and details. It took away being able to have in-depth conversations and ask for advice. But it never took away the essence of who he was.
He was still overwhelmingly positive, happy, and loving life and his family. He was always pleased to see people he recognized and give a warm hello.
So the story:
The last time we went out to dinner was to a local place where my parents know the chef/owner and the chef's mother, Barbara, who is the hostess.
About a hundred times during the meal, Barbara would walk by our table to seat another group, and each time she'd pass, Dad would smile at her and say, "Hi! How are you doing?" to her like greeting a long lost friend. It was repetitive; but it was sincere. And she responded kindly each time because she knew he was sincere.
Some who only saw him at work might just say he was a good shmoozer, but he genuinely loved people, and everybody he met loved him.
At home he was still concerned for everybody else's comfort and happiness above his own, and making sure he was taking care of his family and any guests. "Can I get you something?" "Are you okay?" "Do you need anything?" ... Over and over again.
It's true, he wasn't the same as he was before Alzheimer's. But he was still Irwin. We may have already spent a couple of years mourning the decline, mourning the inevitable, and missing the details, but HE was still very much there, himself, with us, and taking care of us, till the very last.
... Okay... One personal childhood memory... One I don't even think my brothers know. A secret story...
Most of you know that Dad loved to play golf, and if you knew him long enough, that he played hockey as a kid. But we were not huge sports fans in our family. Still, when I was growing up, one of my favorite tv shows was ABCs Wide World of Sports.
I enjoyed Jim McCay, but more important was the ritual of how we watched it. Dad would lie down on the couch and I would lie down beside him, with his arm around me, enjoying the comforting aromas of Old Spice and Budweiser.
I have no idea where the rest of the family was on Saturday afternoons, but for me, "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" meant I would have ninety minutes alone with my Daddy.
Goodbye, Daddy. I love you.