a perspective

“We pay more attention to dying than to death.
We’re more concerned to get over the act of dying than to overcome death…”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

(a gull takes flight at the onset of a wave / Santa Rosa Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2016)

The past two weeks or so have felt like an all out assault.
On all fronts.
With both Dad and me, each dealing with all sorts of issues, stuck in the middle…
All the while I’m finding myself dealing more with Dad’s issues than Dad…
such is the lot that befalls one’s power of attorney and one’s legal healthcare advocate.

The irony is not lost that there was a time that he was all of that for me, his only daughter.

Hard issues, with hard conversations.

We went yesterday to see his primary care physician…
to have one of those hard discussions…and to get his flu shot.

When we got there, Dad’s blood pressure had bottomed out.
They took it three times…with him sitting, then standing…with help, then sitting again.

An immediate IV of fluids was ordered.

While Dad and the nurse were dealing with which vein might work,
as each attempted vein kept collapsing,
the doctor and I had one of two hard conversations of the day.

We went over the notes from last week’s visit to the radiologist, the one dad keeps
calling a screwball. The radiologist had sent Dad’s doctor his recommendation…
The hard 7 weeks of daily radiation treatments.

We talked— as we both pretty much reiterated earlier thoughts and our own takes on
the situation.
An eloquent perspective of living and dying I suppose….

I explained that, how the day following the initial visit last week and dad’s willy nilly
panic of impending death, once Dad had had a chance to think about it all…
that his desire to “do nothing” was met with a peace in my soul.

Not because I felt relief that I wouldn’t have to make the final call…
only to live with the guilt of was it or wasn’t it the right call…
and not that I’d no longer be taking him here, there and yon…
watching what 7 weeks of daily treatment would do to his already frail state,
but rather because there was simply a peace in the
midst of the madness that Dad seemed resolute.

At first I too shared that sense of impending disaster…
as I panicked wondering how I would manage two months of commuting and
transporting a heavy wheelchair and a sick man…
all with my own bad back and pinched nerves,
watching a man who would only be getting sicker daily with treatments…
treatments that would not cure, but only hopefully slow the inevitable.
Knowing I would be watching what would be a losing battle with only poor results.

After our conversation, the doctor then went into the the exam room…
with poor ol Dad flat on his back, hooked up like a car filling up…
where he proceeded to put it all out there for Dad.

Very frank and very honest.

What would most likely happen if treatment was sought…
What would most likely happen if no treatment was sought…
Both grim…
with neither being a victory.

But all rather an issue of quality.

He spoke of maintenance and dealing with things as they came.
Failing bodily functions…
And eventually that of pain, real, unrelenting pain.
He spoke of Hospice.

Dad listened….
and asked a few questions.

Why radiation verses chemo?
What would each most likely do to him?
What would the doctor himself recommend?

And finally being in agreement…

Life is ok right now…
so we do nothing…

And the doctor told him that when things begin to “change”
as we all know things will indeed change….
there will be conservative treatments of getting through…day by day…
all of which will suffice for now…

As we are scheduled to meet with the Hospice folks soon enough…

So it was not lost on me this morning when I just so happened upon this observation
of dying and death by Dietrich Bonhoeffer…
I’ve seen the quote before, and even used it a while back…but how timely it should find me

Bonhoeffer was a man all too familiar with death and dying as he faced his own death
by hanging in a Nazi Death Camp….
He looked beyond his own dying…
and rather to the fact that his death
would give way to the release of joining the Resurrection of Christ,
The very one who overcame death…forever

As this is all a matter of perspective—dying and living…

Socrates masterd the art of dying; Christ overcame death as the last enemy.
There is a real difference between the two things; the one is with the scope of human possibilities, the other means resurrection. It’s not from ars mourned, the art of dying, but from the resurrection of Christ, that a new and purifying wind can blow through our present world. Here is the answer to Archimedes’ challenge: “Give me somewhere to stand, and I will move the earth.” If only a few people really believed that and acted on it in their daily lives, a great deal world be changed.
To live in the light of resurrection–that is what Easter means.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

18 comments on “a perspective

  1. Andy Oldham says:

    I know this is a hard time for you and your Dad. I’ll be praying with you for peace in all that happens. Blessings!

  2. KIA says:

    I’m very sorry to hear about your dad. My experience with both my mom and dad before their passings was very similar.
    But I think the focus should be on how we die, or dying.
    Death, we have no control over whatsoever. When the time comes and we breathe out our last gasp of humanity into the unknown, whenever that comes, we’ve no known idea of what comes after or when exactly it’s going to happen.
    But dying, and even living to be as healthy and active as we can be given our situations, while we are still in control, determine for ourselves and even change the expected outcomes, well… that’s the only thing we can control.
    Live well while you still live. Or as my dad used to say “I’m going to live before I die”.
    The way we die and meet death says much about who we are as persons and what we believe. I plan to live till I die, and when the time comes close for me, I’m going to focus on how I die, and not death itself. Actual death takes literally moments and is over in an instant. Living and dying well takes the focus of a lifetime

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comments and support. Situations such as the one Dad and I currently face are never easy.
      And you are correct in that we should live, and hopefully die, well…
      I can’t help but think back at the end of Pope John Paul’s life—it was very obvious that he was gravely ill, even having lost the ability to talk…many thought he should step down or that those caring for him should allow for the naming of a new pope. Ours is a culture that does not like looking upon the sick and dying—we want life and vibrancy—and truly prefer not knowing or seeing the sadder and more painful sides of life and living—and that being chronic illness and even dying…but the one thing the Pope did was to remind us all, rather publicly, of that very aspect of life—the part that comes inevitably to an end for all of us—
      With just days before his death…just before Easter of that year, Pope John Paul II continued to have an audience from his bedroom window—unable to speak or to stand—he blessed the crowd—frustrated and tearful with his inability to do what he’d always done, that simple act of blessing a crowd…he managed to do so—feebly at best.
      The pain, often immense, that we feel both physically, as well as emotionally , in this life is real and is part and parcel of living and dying—yet for those of us who are believers, our hope is found, and it remains, in those two distinct aspects of our humanness…that being… both living and dying —yet at Christians, we find our peace in that latter aspect, the aspect of dying, as we know that Jesus overcame death…as He, who is of God, became as man—who suffered and died…vanquishing the permanency of Death for all mankind…
      Again—I thank you for your thoughtfulness

  3. Continuing to pray. Grateful that Dad was able to make the decision.

  4. Lynda says:

    Julie, prayers continue. I am thankful that your dad made the decision and I pray that he will die with dignity as palliative care provides for that. The hospice personnel will be helpful to you as well as your dad as you make this journey together. Prayers for pain control for your back as well!

  5. Sounds like you both at peace with the decision, and that’s important.

  6. Fantastic post! But I want to talk to you about this guilt thing! You have NOTHING to feel guilty about now or in the weeks to come. You have done everything you can to help your dad even to hurting your own health. This is never an easy passage for anyone, but all any of us can do is the best we can and listen to the Lord’s leadings. As I was dealing with my mom’s passing, I had several people tell me the same thing. I did the best I could and tried to honor and follow her wishes until she went into some kind of coma the last 7 days of her life. But even then she had told me decades before that she never wanted to be on life support of when the time came to make that call, I chose to do that. So anytime guilt like to creep in, I told Satan to go away. I hope you choose to do the same as your dad’s days draw closer and closer to an end. My dad had a massive heart attack on a Friday night and by Saturday night a huge clot move into his heart and collapsed every vein in his body. And so I never even got to say goodbye. I had been there about ! PM that day but he was resting in ICU and they told me not to wake him up but to come back later. As I turned to leave, I looked back and he opened his eys briefly and smiled and that was the last I ever saw of him. I have no guilt about that but huge regrets that he had to die so soon as I was only 18 at the time. So it was different with mom. She lived to be 92 and had been in fairly good health. We never get much if any choice in these matters and all we can do is the best we can and follow their wishes as best we can. You have gone above and beyond the call of duty my friend so NO NO NO GUILT, now or ever!
    Love and hugs, Natalie 🙂 ❤

  7. lljostes says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful update and reflection on you and your dad. I can only say I rejoice with you in the perspective that we believers all share, “I know that my Redeemer lives!” We know that in this world we will have pain, but because Jesus conquered death and was resurrected, we know that our lives ending in this world, is NOT the end. My prayers continue to go up for you and for your dad. May the truth of the Resurrection comfort you both and give you strength each day until your Dad is called Home. Love and hugs, Laura

  8. I am glad he has made his decision in his own time, and not run to a course of action out of fear. It is a tough road ahead and I have no words to make it easier. Just know that my thoughts are with you.

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