Waiting

No surprise that we’re here waiting. This is life when you get to the age when you count your blessings and count the days. The worst thing we could do to our parents would to pre-decease them, so the best requires us to say goodbye.

There’s a Buddhist story. A peasant man saves up until he can afford to pay a monk to write him a blessing to adorn the family altar. He watches the monk cover the scroll with flowing calligraphy, and asks him respectfully what the blessing says.

‘Grandfather dies, father dies, son dies.’ says the monk.

The peasant is outraged. ‘I gave you everything I had to buy a blessing, and you have written me a curse!’ he cried.

‘On the contrary’, said the monk. ‘If the father died before the grandfather, or the son before the father, this would cause terrible suffering to the family. If each dies in his time, this is the way of the universe and everything is as it should be.’

The peasant was satisfied that he had truly been blessed.

Of course, the monk did not write that the family would enjoy longevity, or be spared any other of the thousand fates that could befall them, because the monk had no power or knowledge of that. The best we can hope for in this world is that we have our time, and don’t leave our parents bereaved.

My Dad is in the hospital now, we hope he will come home soon. Meanwhile we are taking turns watching over him and talking to the nurses and doctors. He’s at Kent County, they’ve been wonderful and we’re all in agreement that he should be discharged as soon as it’s safe. Still, there have been failures of communication between the ER and the unit, the VA and Kent. We’ve ironed that out and have been his voice and protection from falls that can happen in an instant no matter how good the staff. The staff has been good about letting us camp out here and help with the care– I haven’t had a huffy or officious word spoken to me in three days.

If we are blessed, we are here to help our parents in their time, and that is the best we can hope for in this world.

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9 responses

  1. Nancy- best wishes to you and your father

    You are fortunate to still have him, I lost my parents in the 1980s, my mother was only 65. Being 71 now myself, that seems much too young to die even if it was in the proper order

  2. Nancy, I do hope your dad improves so that he’s able to leave KCMH when it’s safe for him to do so.

    I went through some of this earlier this year and I found that being the voice and protection for my father to bring home in stark relief the proper order of life. It was also one of the great gifts of my life to be able to do that for him and to grow closer to him as – hopefully not in your case – the end came.

    And a small shout out to Kent County Memorial Hospital. All staff were more than kind, generous and compassionate during my father’s hospitalization and during my stay there in May.

    Your dad’s lucky to have you and the rest of the family looking out for him.

  3. My wife is waiting on a daily basis to hear that her father has passed.He has terminal Alzheimer’s and cannot speak,swallow food or liquid,recognize anyone,move on his own-well,you get the picture.
    He’s on home hospice and has a feeding tube and a catheter,as well as intermittent oxygen and bedsores.
    My brother in law had the feeding tube put in against the wishes of my wife and one of her sisters(the other seems to have no opinion)and against the advice of the nurse practitioner in charge of the home hospice program.
    He is a stubborn person with tunnel vision on almost every issue and he’s never wrong-just ask him.
    He’s hoping my father in law will “rally’or “have a chance”-the NP said “a chance for what?”His brain is gone.
    People should be allowed to die with some dignity,not like what’s being done to him.His son’s motives aren’t bad,but the results of his actions are.my father in law had a living will,which my brother in law “just found”,but we suspect he hasn’t shown to the home hospice people.
    I knew the man for 42 years and we got along great-never a cross word between us.My wife admired him a great deal and loved him very much-still does-but she doesn’t want him to exist in this condition one more day.
    He came here at 17 from Honduras and served in WW2 in the Merchant Marine before he was even a citizen-he got sunk once and was at Normandy.
    After retirement he was a supervising engineer for a large utility.
    He fathered 4 children and was married to a severely mentally ill woman for 53 years and he never wavered.
    Now he deserves a rest.
    I had to make that call for my father in 1992 when he had terminal cancer.It’s not easy,but you know when no more can or should be done.
    My mom is 98 and clear minded-she has a living will like my dad did and is adamant that no extreme measures be used to keep her alive.
    With my foot in the grave health profile I’ll probably go first.C’est la vie.
    Just exchanging some thoughts on an issue of significance to us all.

    1. Joe, my profound sympathies for your father-in-law. I know what you mean about the feeding tube. I was my father’s attorney-in-fact and at the end there were all options swirling about, including a feeding tube. Add to the situation the couched language of the doctors about prognosis.

      In the end, it hit critical mass and I finally told the doc(s) to cut the bs and tell me what the best outcome would be if all these interventions “worked.” Basically it was that my father would be able to manage to get off his hospital bed to his wheel chair.

      Over the course of my father’s situation, and with him being 95 with a clear mind until the end, we had a conversation about what the end game should look like and how he wanted to live, and to die. So once the couched medical language disappeared and there was clarity to the situation and prognosis, my “decision” became clear and I authorized hospice care for him. It was hard but it wasn’t my decision – I was putting in place what he had told me. He was basically in control to the end with me as his agent.

      In the end, there’s always the temptation to throw a “hail Mary pass” in order to give the parent one last chance at recovery. But that’s more for the kids than for the parent – at least I’ve learned that much. Sometimes you have to listen to nursing and hospice staff (who in my situation were the more straight-forward with information than the docs) and with that knowledge do what’s consistent with the parent’s wishes and what’s best for him/her.

      This is a long way to say that I feel for the situation you and your wife find yourselves in with your father-in-law. I hope for everyone’s sake clearer heads prevail over the coming days.

      And God bless your 98 year-old mom.

      1. Thanks-and when my father died,he was still entirely competent mentally also,but the pain overwhelmed even the Dilaudid we were giving him and we managed to keep him at home until the last night/day when they had to put him in the hospital on an IV of Toridol amd morphine-he was unconscious and hemmorhaging and I didn’t want my mom to have to make the decision-she was on the same page with me-carrying out his directive for no treatment except pain relief-it was just easier for me because I hadn’t lived with them since I was 18 and I had the distance that was needed to make it easier to live with my decision.I’ve never had a second thought about if it was the right thing.
        I have to say home hospice para-professionals are outstanding people-I wouldn’t have their job for anything.

      2. Geoff, thank you for your kindness and support. It helps to share what we are going through. We have the privilege of having our parents with us long into our adulthood, I have to acknowledge that when we face the hard times.

  4. PS-I hope your father gets well and home soon.Hospitals are necessary but no place you want to be a day longer than you have to.

    1. Joe, thank you for sharing this. Your family had a tough time of it, but you made the right decision. I have seen such awful suffering in nursing homes, especially in the ’80’s when it was not allowed to stop useless treatments.
      I send my best wishes to your wife, and hope that your father in law is in a mental place where there is no pain.
      Thank you for all your kind thoughts.

  5. Kiersten Marek | Reply

    Nancy, I hope your Dad is home soon and continues to recover. Geoff and Joe, I appreciate the conversation on end of life issues. We obviously went through all this with my mother. She also was adamant about no extreme measures. It’s so important to carry out the directives left by people. Though it is painful and brings on the much grieving, it is what they have asked you to do and you must honor that commitment.

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