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Life Arts    H4'ed 2/10/16

Midwifing a Parent's Journey to the Great Beyond

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Me and my dad
Me and my dad
(Image by Meryl Ann Butler)
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Dad's been on heavy meds for a couple of days to relieve the stress of feeling like he is suffocating from COPD. Hospice guesses he has a week or two.

And he never even smoked. Well, actually he did for a short time, while he was in the Army-Air Corps, because they gave him free cigarettes. But he quit after WW2 because cigarettes were too expensive -- 5 cents a pack.

So Dad lies dying from the blue haze of my grandfather's secondhand smoke, which permeated the house from the day he was born.

I remembered one day when mom was in hospice, a decade ago, and she'd been mostly unresponsive for a long time. Dad came to visit in her hospital room, where I'd been attending her full-time. As mom had been quiet all day, I was working on my laptop.

When Dad sat next to her, I witnessed one of the most remarkable conversations of my life. He gently took her hand said quietly, "Do you know what's happening to you?"

It shocked me, to see my dad so mindful of the fact that it might be useful to bring this to her awareness. I considered myself pretty enlightened, but I hadn't thought of saying anything like that. I'm not as enlightened as I'd thought, apparently.

That one question showed so much understanding and caring. I think that was the moment I really fell in love with my dad.
Such an intimate exchange. I didn't want to intrude so I hid behind my laptop.

After a pause, Mom responded, "Yes, I'm passing on."

The richness of the conversation seemed to fill the room - and me - with such divinity. I couldn't have spoken at that moment if I'd been called to.

And then Dad said to her, "And there is something I need to talk to you about. Interment."

That was an odd shift in the conversation.

He continued, "You know, there are different choices, you can be buried, or cremated...and I need to know what you want..."

Yikes! My parents were in their 80's, and I was shocked to realize that they'd apparently never discussed this!

Her answer was inherently "Mom" -- she told him, "Just do whatever is the cheapest." My mom. Thrift-conscious 'til the very end.

He didn't, of course. But that was fine, because what he did after she died was for him, and what he did before she died was for her. And he got both of them right.

So now that Dad is on the same path, it only seemed right to offer him the same assistance that he had offered her. Of course, he didn't need any assistance with interment choices, he'd already made his decisions about all of that, signed and sealed.

But he was in a fog from meds, and I wanted to make sure he had some clarity about his journey.

So today, he wanted to sit up in bed. Since he was heavily medicated, it was tricky to do, and when he finally sat up, his head sank into his boney hands.
I put my arm around him and asked him, "Dad, do you know what is happening to you?"

He shook his head "no."

Whew. This was going to be harder than I thought.

I took a deep breath.

"You're dying, Dad, but it's okay, Mom will be there. It's okay."

And then he seemed ready to lie down again and go back to sleep.
The author and her dad, Ft. Ticonderoga, 1955.
The author and her dad, Ft. Ticonderoga, 1955.
(Image by Photo courtesy Ralph Butler.)
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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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