Friday, August 9, 2019

Long time no write

Robert frost, 1912

Out through the fields and the woods

And over the walls I have wended; 
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world, and descended; 
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither; 
The last lone aster is gone; 
The flowers of the witch hazel wither; 
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question ‘Whither? ’

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?

The last six weeks have been kind of awful. Life's like that sometimes.

Dad died on July 29 at 2:36 p.m. It seemed to be a relatively easy transition for him.

He'd gone on hospice about 12 days previously. He was still feeling somewhat good -- for certain definitions of good. During the first week he'd been able to sleep in his own bed, which was important to him. He had to give up the walker as he just couldn't make his feet and legs do what he wanted then to do. He still had a great deal of strength but he'd simply lost control of parts of the motor nerves. I could tell that it was quite vexing for him on a number of levels. In place of the walker -- which was in some sense his independence -- hospice brought over a nice wheelchair. We could still pretty easily get him in and out of bed, to the benjo, in to wash his face and brush his teeth, then out to the kitchen table for breakfast, which he continued to enjoy.

After breakfast we wheeled him into his "man cave" and his recliner. From there, with the exception of lunch and supper in the kitchen, he did what he's been doing for the last 18 months or so. He read the paper and magazines, worked sudoku puzzles, read his kindle, and watched television. Then back to bed for a good night's sleep and start it all over in the morning, Every other day I drained about 4 liters of fluid from his abdomen.

Though Dad was born at less than three pounds and initial projections regarding his immediate survival were anchored to a very flimsy reed, he quickly rebounded and grew up strong and healthy. Until the end I never saw him as anything but a big, strong fellow; it had to do with genetics of course, but even more to a life of hard work and dedication and what Henry Wadsworth Longfellow alluded to -- an innate skill "to labor and to wait."

But his time was running out.

On Tuesday evening he managed to roll out of his bed. On Wednesday Hospice brought a hospital bed, We set it up in the "man cave" so that he could look outside if he wished, or watch television. Once ensconced in his final earthly bower, however, he never looked at the television. I do not know if he looked outside. That evening he said he wanted to sleep in his own bed but he didn't argue much. I think he was too far gone,

On Thursday he could still visit a bit, Thursday morning he wanted some breakfast pizza and apple juice. He was still able to eat and swallow but he was very nearly comatose. That pizza was the last meal he ever ate. We fed it to him bite by bite and he ate most of a single serving pizza. He said it was good, and when we asked he wanted more, until, finally, he said, "that's enough." Throughout the rest of the day he bantered off and on a brief intervals with several grandchildren.

That evening he wanted to sit on the camode, and after a monumental struggle my brothers and I had him so ensconced, but nothing came of it. It was a hard struggle to put him back to bed. I could tell by the way he clutched at me that he was very worried about falling. I held him close and strong and we got him back to bed. "I gotcha Dad, I gotcha. It's okay, you're not gonna fall. I gotcha."

It was almost the way a father might comfort a son in a similar situation. Only completely different of course.

That was the last time Dad was up, and to the best of my knowledge the last time he was anything close to conscious. I believe that this was the moment he began to take the last journey.

Over the next 72 hours his breathing pattern began to shift. It wasn't anything abrupt or alarming, the rate and rhythm just slowly changed. By late on Sunday he'd completely shifted to Cheyenne-Stokes breathing, which roughly means that little other than the autonomic nervous system was still operating. He never seemed in pain or distress. Every now and then he'd seem a bit agitated and we'd give him just a touch of morphine and ativan to control any anxiety he might have been having.

At 2:36 p.m. he took one last breath and didn't take another.

Mom and I and the sibs who could be here were here. Many of the grandkids who could visit did so in the days previous. It was a quiet time, and even though we were all prepared, none of us -- least of all me -- were really prepared.

Seventy-eight years, 233 days.

And because I'm such a blaspheming pseudo-poet...

A Psalm of Life ca 1875
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - 1807-1882

What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
"Life is but an empty dream!"
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
"Dust thou art, to dust returnest,"
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Finds us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,--act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing
Learn to labor and to wait.


  1. Shaun- Deepest condolences on your Dad's passage. He was in good hands, no pain, and lived a great life and left a great family, and no one could ask for more. It was not unexpected, by your family, or your blogmates, and was properly your top priority.

    We lost my Mother a while back, and it was similar, but she was almost 98, outliving her husband by 6 years, and missing him every day. Distance and a rapid decline precluded my being there, but we had made our "last visit" several times, and it turned out the one a few weeks earlier was not a drill. My siblings were there, one a nurse, whose clinical observations are remarkably similar to yours. Parents will be missed, remembered and honored, and someday it will be our turn. The Lion King can be a lesson for all.

    May God bless you and your family as each generation steps up to new challenges.

    Meanwhile, farms gotta be farmed. Best wishes.
    John Blackshoe

    1. Thanks John, and condolences on the loss of your Mother. I guess you don't really know until you know.

      The farm is being farmed. I'm not sure how I'd get through this without chores to do.

      Thanks Shipmate.

  2. Shaun - Please accept my condolences to you and your family on the death of your loved one. I will pray for comfort and healing for all of you. Mark

    1. Thanks Mark. Your kind words mean more than you'll ever know. God Bless.

  3. A life well lived and surrounded by his descendants until the very end. Your loss will always be with you and that is part of his legacy, IMO.

    After my youngest son died this past St. Patrick Day, my sister and niece insisted I utilize our community grief center. Much to my surprise, this stubborn old buffalo found it helpful. You might look for something similar in your area. Too often we busy ourselves with being strong for others and ignore we are people too.

    People want to help but don't know how. When I tell them the steps I'm taking, there is almost a palatable look of relief on their faces. Whether it helps me or not, it most certainly helps them.

    1. I'm very sorry for your loss my friend. Wish I had better words. I'll have to see if we've got a similar place around here. This has been harder to deal with than I expected. I can be a tough and caring professional for other people but not, it seems, for me.

      Thank you so much for your kind words.

  4. Shaun, I cannot express the sorrow I have in my heart for your loss. It is truly a hard thing to bury one's father, I did that over nine years ago. The sorrow remains, but so do the memories. There will be times that you'll feel that ache, that howling emptiness left by his passing, but you will, from time to time, feel the soft glow of the good memories and the life you shared.

    I know you will get through this, your Dad left a good man behind to carry on, you.

    Prayers for you and yours my brother.

    1. Thanks Brother, your words mean the world. Some of the smash is starting to ease. It's only a beginning, but at least it's a beginning.

  5. Shaun, I'm so sorry, it is hard I know. Prayers for you and your family.

    1. Thanks so much Brig. Your kind words and prayers are so much appreciated.

  6. I'm sorry for your loss.
    As time moves on I remember more of the good times with my father, and there is less feeling of loss.
    I still wish we had more time together.

    1. Thanks John. I'm sure you're right. I think I'll always wish we had more time together. There were plenty of good times for sure.

  7. Your post brings back some memories.
    Sorry for your loss.

    1. Thanks for the kind words Skip. I'm sorry for your loss too.

  8. Shaun- I am so sorry for your loss. I hope you will find comfort and a measure of peace in knowing that you were able to do what your Dad wanted at the end...for him to be home with loved ones around, and not tied to a facility's schedule. As professionals, even if you have worked in or with Hospice patients before, and ya know the drill, it is still much different when it is your own loved one. Take some time and allow yourself to grieve. Now he is at rest, you don't have to be strong any more.
    Prayers and hugs,

    1. Thanks so much Suz, that really helps. 'Cuz I sure as heck ain't feelin' very strong!

  9. Read about you over at OldAFSarge's place. The way you treated your dad, helping him live out his days in comfortable, familiar surroundings, is the most HONOURABLE thing I've heard of this year at least. May God comfort you, and bless you for fulfilling the "commandment with a promise". Well done.

    1. Thank you so much STxAR for your kind words and thoughts. I'm blessed to have been able to care for him. Not everyone is so fortunate.

  10. Shaun, I too came over from OldAFSarge's site. I'm so sorry for your loss. I took care of my parents' at home with the help of our local hospice. It is physically and emotionally so rough on the caregivers. Please do seek out a bereavement group, or counseling. Be gentle with yourself. Take time to grieve and heal. You gave your Dad the gift of dying in his own home, surrounded by memories and family. I'm keeping you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words and thoughts Mary. It was a hard trial but some things are supposed to be hard. I was blessed to be in a position where I could be there do what needed done. So very many are not so fortunate. Tonight I'm surrounded by family and friends. It'll be okay. The Lord never gives you more than you can take.

  11. Shaun,BTDT. I know the feeling. Hang in there and know that we're praying for you all. juvat

    1. Thanks Juvat, your thoughts, prayers and words mean more than you'll ever know. s

  12. My parents each died suddenly within 3 months of each other (though of separate causes), almost 45 years ago, and I *still* miss them. I don't know whether tis better for a loved one to go quickly, with things perhaps left unsaid, or over a span of time while surviving loved ones must watch the weakening of the body and the fading of the spirit, and the darkening of the light.
    You tended your dad in his final days and gave him what comfort was possible -- there is something to be treasured about that. I am not a formally religious person, but Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 always comes to mind at these times.
    So sorry for your & your family's loss.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words and thoughts. I used to wonder about the same question. At the moment, it seems like we simply don't get to choose, so the answer to the question as phrased is unknowable. In this case perhaps it was simply the time to this particular purpose under heaven. :) Thank you again.

  13. Sorry to hear friend. If you've been following the Chant, you'll know that I'll be in same situation soon. I'm glad you were there with him, for him, and he wasn't uncomfortable. My best to you and yours.

    1. Thanks for the kind words and kind thoughts Tuna. You and yours are in my thoughts and prayers. I wish I knew a way to ease your burden, but it would be a completely hosed up world if I could exercise that kind of power. You guys are close in my mind and in my heart.

  14. Replies
    1. Thank you so very much gfrey. Your condolences mean a great deal and are appreciated.

  15. Thoughts and prayers. Know that your dad has gone to a better place, and is no longer in pain.

    1. Thanks. That's a fact, his suffering is over and he's in a better place. Still expect him to be around here though...

  16. Shaun: Two things- first, I'm sorry that I'm so late in reading this post, and wish I hadn't had to almost as much as you didn't want to write it. Second, I want to express my most heartfelt condolences to you, your Mom, and the rest of your family.

    Anything else I can think to write seems banal. However, know that you and your Mom are often in my thoughts and my best wishes are with you always.

    Paul L. Quandt

    1. Thanks very much Paul. Mom and I often talk about our last trip and meeting you guys. That was way cool!

  17. My apologies for being so late. Loss of a parent is difficult. I lost the Badger Dad in 1996, and the Badger Mom ten years ago. I still miss them, but, in both cases, with Dad's stroke, and Mom's cancer, there was ageat deal of relief that the suffering was over, and they were with their folks, and those that ent before. I shall see all them again, as will you and your Dad. Be of faith, The pain will never entirely go away, but it will dull. You have a sturdy group of friends here, and we all care a great deal about you.

    1. Thanks, Scott. Very much appreciated. Dad's suffering is finished, and that's indeed a relief. This has been a trial I thought myself prepared for, so it was also a valuable learning experience.

  18. Condolences for your loss. Not a day goes by that I do not think of my Mother and Father and the great gift of life and ethic they instilled in me. 19 years since my Father had to go, 2 1/2 for my Mother. I still call them, then remember they won't answer, but they will still hear. I also thought I was prepared. I was not. Stay strong for those who cannot be.

    1. Thanks very much SL. Your words and thoughts mean a great deal.

  19. Evert,
    I'm very sorry for your loss. It's one of the hardest things you'll every go thru.


  20. I waved when I drove past your place yesterday. Hope life is adapting to the new circumstances, Vegetation looks good for this time of year. Keeping you and your family in our thoughts and prayers.
    John Blackshoe

    1. Thanks John. We seem to have weathered the worst of the storm. Now it's on with life!