Christmas has come and gone. It’s sad that it couldn’t last. For the first time in a long time we had some real joy, some real happiness. Daddy was home for Christmas between trips the hospital. We had a big family breakfast, did our stockings (an event in itself, see previous posting [eeek, currently down for editing]), and traded gifts. We prepared our special Turducken dinner and were settling in for a relaxing evening with family and friends.
It was almost normal.
Ughh. That’s not fair, I admit it, as it makes it sound like Dad’s illness(es) were somehow extraordinary and new to this world. They were life changing for us, but I can acknowledge that we are a small portion of the population who have had to deal with this scenario.
As we were settling in, Daddy was rushed back to the hospital.
It’s apparent that this is becoming too much for him. He is so tired, in so much pain. He is, almost literally, half the man he used to be. He is 64 years old and looks like he is 80+. He hates that his kids have to help him move, eat, and clean up. He hates being any kind of a burden to his family and, while we would never see it that way, he was also so proud of being the provider; the role shift is too great for him.
The doctor called this morning to let us know that they had done everything they could. They could prolong his life with dialysis, but the rest was pain and symptom management, nothing more. He would never improve. She was kind, and patient, and just clinical enough to make her point: He made it clear that he did not want artificial life… and dialysis is just that for him. It is keeping him alive enough to live his days in pain – both physical and emotional – but he doesn’t really have a life. He is almost completely blind, he can barely eat, he sleeps most of the day away and rests fitfully at night. His memory and cognitive functions are compromised. He is unhappy like this. He is sick and tired of being sick and tired.
We had a family meeting after we talked to the doctor about hospice. My older brother joined us via speakerphone, and the rest of us sat at the kitchen table my Dad sat at as a child. We cried, we actually laughed, we weighed the options and realized we really only had two: prolong the pain, or release him from it.
Mom and Sis and I went to breakfast. Older Bro talked to his family. Little Bro went to work. All of us and none of us wanted to go and tell Daddy what the doctor said.
When we did get to the hospital, the hospice representative was waiting for us. The doctor called her and told her we were coming. She wanted Daddy to be with his family when she explained the doc’s position. When she did come in and introduce herself, Daddy was quiet for a few moments and then stopped her mid-sentence. “So you are saying I can choose to just go home? I can be done?” She nodded.
That was all he needed. He said, with an emphatic point of his finger, that it was exactly what he wanted; he was done fighting.
He was released from the hospital for the last time today. He is home.
And he is going to die.