Farewell to a beloved husband and father
Today I am in Idaho attending the memorial service of my father-in-law.
He passed away two weeks ago at the age of 85, after suffering for several years from declining health and increasing dementia. His wife of 59 years and all four of his children were at his bedside when he died.
Death is not pretty, but neither is childbirth. Both involve pain, fear and uncertainty. And hope. Hope that mother and baby are healthy at the end of the ordeal. Hope that the dying one finds peace and an end to physical suffering.
That’s the circle of life, isn’t it?
Choosing hospice care
Although my husband and his siblings grieved over their loss, they took comfort knowing their once fiercely independent father was finally released from the prison of a failing body and mind.
And together with their mother, they were of one mind that he should die at home (well, his assisted living room) and surrounded by his family.
When his health took a turn for the worse, the family, with the help of the assisted living staff, arranged for hospice care. The knowledgeable and caring hospice workers not only provided physical comfort to their patient, but emotional support to the entire family. I am a huge proponent of hospice care and think it is woefully underutilized in this country.
Avoiding a cruel and costly hospital death
Given slightly different circumstances–different family relationships, different care providers–my father-in-law’s death could have been so much different, and so much more horrible.
At any point his caregivers, his wife or one of his kids could have insisted that he be sent to the hospital so that “everything” possible could be done. It happens all the time.
Contrary to what many people think, doctors and nurses do not like to over treat patients at the end of life, what they call “futile care”.
We admitted a patient with very advanced cancer, dying naturally at home on hospice. Because of last minute family intervention, the patient ended up spending 48 hours on super-max support, dying quite horribly with tubes and lines in every natural and unnatural orifice.
But despite talking with the doctors about her advanced age and the poor state of her health, her family had nonetheless decided that we should “do everything we can” for her, and so Helen died in a frenzy of nurses pumping her with vasopressors and doing chest compressions, probably cracking several ribs.
So, I am thankful for my husband and his family, and grateful to the care providers, that my father-in-law left this world in the best circumstances possible for his situation.
An avid fisherman and hunter, I hope he finds himself with a fishing rod in one hand and a rifle in the other, a hunting dog at his heels.
Rest in peace.