Wednesday, April 20, 2011
End of the Journey
My father-in-law had a heart attack this morning. He was taken to the emergency room and now has been moved to hospice. He is in his 90's and has advanced Alzheimer's. He is conscious, but not really aware. Last night he held his wife's hand and she believed he knew she was there. Today his eyes are open but when asked who she was, he mumbled incoherently. He is on morphine for pain, but they are not performing any other procedures to prolong his life. My mother-in-law was told he would probably die within the week.
The spouse is heading to Portland tomorrow morning with his brother to be with his mother. This is a time of conflicting emotions for the spouse. When we last visited his father together a few months ago, he recognized the spouse. When the spouse visited by himself a few weeks later, his father did not know him. The spouse says he's known his father was gone and that he has had months to get used to the idea that his father would die. But now he is in the final stage of dying and the reality is still difficult to accept, even though the essence of his father has been gone for some time. While he waits for his father to die, he is not mourning the man who clings to life, but the man his father once was. Knowing that his death is a blessing that will release his father from the ravages of Alzheimer’s does not make letting go any easier.
As people around us will celebrate Easter, we will mourn the loss of my father-in-law. Life and death, it’s the natural course of events. Tomorrow the sun will rise and set and life will go on. I remind myself that without experiencing loss, it is difficult to appreciate the gift of life. Today I appreciate the life of my father-in-law.