Cherish Your Parents (while you can)

Cherish.  This one-word comment was left on my Facebook page by a long-time friend.  I had just posted the news that my brothers and I were holding bedside vigils during our dad’s final days.  Looking back, I realize that my friend’s brief post hit the mark.

Dad gazing at Jane

While helping oversee the physical aspects of dad’s end-of-life care was of paramount importance, it was even more critical to treasure our final relational connections:

. . . to see a light of recognition in his eyes;

. . . to tell him how much he meant to me;

. . . to feel his parched lips kiss my hand.

These are moments I will always cherish.

If you still have your parents, I hope you’ll have the bittersweet privilege of being with them in their final hours.

But more importantly, I urge you not to wait until their lives are slipping away to treasure them.

Begin cherishing them NOW.

Continue reading “Cherish Your Parents (while you can)”

Saying Farewell to Mom and Dad’s House

My co-worker and I were discussing plans for spring break from the college where we work.  “I’m going home,” she declared.  I knew this meant she would be traveling to visit her mom and dad several thousand miles away.   Though married and middle-aged, home was still where her parents lived.

Mom and Dad at door
Dad and Mom

I could relate.  The places where my mom and dad resided always represented “home” to me, no matter what my age.  Their house possessed an irresistible magnetic force, especially during the holidays.  It was where I could drop in anytime, be warmly welcomed, and stay as long as I wanted.  Mom and Dad’s home represented familiarity, comfort, love, and security.  It was my soft place to land.

Even after mom passed away eight years ago, dad remained living in their house, so it continued to serve as a central gathering place for our family.  For years I dreaded the day when dad would no longer be able to live there and my brothers and I would be faced with dissolving his estate.  Though I knew it was inevitable, the thought overwhelmed me—not only because of the magnitude of the task, but because it would mean losing my home base.

This past fall that time sadly arrived for our family.  After our dad’s health turned, we were faced with disassembling his home filled with a lifetime of memories. Continue reading “Saying Farewell to Mom and Dad’s House”

Faced with a Life or Death Decision

A flood of fresh tears flowed as I thumbed through the twenty-eight page  document.  The Medicare “Summary Notice” coldly spelled out the amounts paid to the mile-long list of medical providers.   I couldn’t help but re-live the experience of dad’s final days as I moved chronologically through the papers.  The final ER visit.  Multiple blood draws.  An electrocardiogram.  Numerous ex-rays and a CT scan.  The chest tap and chest tube. The ambulance ride back to the nursing home.  The physician’s final visits.

Perhaps what stood out most was the ER doctor’s description: “Emergency department visit, problem with significant threat to life or function.”

ER signDad was, indeed, gravely ill when he landed in the emergency room in mid-November.  His white blood-cell count was sky-high, indicating something was seriously wrong.  When I arrived at his bedside, I couldn’t help but look at his frail body and think that we might not be there had it not been for a snap decision made by a physician a month earlier. Continue reading “Faced with a Life or Death Decision”

Dying Peacefully

Apparently David Bowie did it.  The New York Times reported on January 11, 2016 that the rock icon “died peacefully.”

In fact, I’ve noticed that the phrase “died peacefully” crop ups up frequently in eulogies and obituaries.  “John Doe died peacefully, surrounded by his family.”  So perhaps it shouldn’t have taken me so off-guard when someone leaned in and probed, “Did your dad die peacefully?” 

I stood there dumbstruck, unsure how to answer.   I had just come through a grueling nine days of bedside vigils.  I wasn’t sure what the intent of the question was – did he want to know whether my dad looked serene at the actual moment of death?  Was he grasping to find out if my father’s dying process was comfortable and “easy?”  Was he somehow trying to ease the sting of his own grief by receiving an affirmative answer?

Continue reading “Dying Peacefully”

Trusting God When People Screw Up

My dad’s world (and my family’s world) changed dramatically this month. It started with a phone message alerting me that dad wasn’t answering the door for his noon “Meals on Wheels” delivery.  I wasn’t initially too concerned, because sometimes he doesn’t hear the doorbell.  So I tried calling dad and left a message. Five minutes later I tried again. When another few minutes had elapsed, my anxiety began to rise.   I called my cousin’s husband who lives around the corner from dad and asked him to check things out.

My relative called with an urgent tone in his voice moments later to let me know that he had found dad collapsed on the floor, unable to get up.  Dad was still wearing his night clothes, so we estimated he had been there at least five hours.   His “Life Line,” which would have detected the fall, was later found on his bathroom counter. Continue reading “Trusting God When People Screw Up”