Living with someone like tomorrow might be their last is much harder to do when it is actually the case.
My dad told me, after my nine-year old niece died, that a parent should never outlive their child. When I look at my own children, I know that is true. But with my parents aging process, my dad’s long and difficult past twenty years, and now near end of life condition, I just don’t know how I’d order things, if I could, between us.
When God, (Morgan Freedman,) told the complaining Bruce Nolan, (Jim Carey,) that he could have all of his powers, the audience of “Bruce Almighty” projected both a positive transference and a schadenfreude. Bringing the viewer into the character’s identity is every actor’s aspiration. And we went there. Up. “Yay! Bruce can answer everyone’s prayers with a ‘yes’!” And then down, down, down. The multidimensional disaster’s created by misplaced power, power without wisdom, love, or altruism, was just painful to watch. Power does not God make.
My Dad is dying. Not likely from cancer. Not likely from a failed liver, floppy heart, or baggy lungs. He is just dying. He’s confused on and off. His spine is failing so he can barely walk. He has repeated blood clots. And he’s recently risen out of a deep depression. Rison right into a confused grandiosity, full awkward, awkward like pants ripping when you bend over type of awkward, and inter-galactic soaring thought content.
The first “word” Dad played in Scrabble last week was “vl.” He explained, “vl, like vowel.” …Okay? For thirty minutes Dad played without playing one actual word. I started crying when he finally stopped connecting letters. The letters floated on the board like California will look after the “big earthquake” finally hits and it falls into the ocean. (We’ve all been waiting.) Now he tells me he called and spoke to Obama and Magic Johnson. Reference point. This is bizarre and out of his character. He’s been delirious with waxing and waning level of consciousness for a month and a half. He’s dying. Sheez.
Living well while Dad dies is not easy. Would I use power to restore him to his healthy twelve-year old self, like Elli’s seventy-year old grandfather did, in “The Fourteenth Goldfish,” by Jennifer L. Holm? Would I use power to change the order of death? Would I do anything more or less or different, while my dad is dying?
Power does not God make. I am not God. (Ta-da! It’s out of the box now.) But both of us are watching Dad die. I trust that She, with the power, wisdom, love, and altruism, is living with him well, during this time.
In Life and Other Near-Death Experiences, by Camille Pagán, Libby Miller decides to live, just live, rather than die perfectly. And maybe that’s my answer to this unasked question. Living with someone dying will not be perfect for me.
Self-Care Tip: Live imperfectly to live well, like this is your, his, or her last day.
Question: How do you “live well?”
It hurts to watch loved ones suffer, with or without imminent death. The only solution for death is the same solution for life: love. Just love. Love may not obey all the rules of engagement, be appreciated or even welcome, but love never fails. We can hold fast to love because love is eternal. Dr.Dwayne Dyer said that if we change the way we see the world, the world that we see will change. Perhaps we should also change the way that we see declining health and maybe the declining health we see will also change. Maybe we should see decline as an opportunity for us to love with our whole hearts so that scrabble letters can convey greater meaning than a 3 point bonus word. I have neighbors who touched my life with love when I was horribly traumatized by wrongdoers. It is my neighbors’ love that that I see when I look next door through my kitchen windows rather than sorrow. I doubt that my neighbors realize how powerful that their loving kindness is, and maybe they don’t need to. Maybe they just need to know that VL is a roman numeral for 45 and that VL is a 10 point scrabble bonus word.
Thank you. So much.
Meaningful discourse on this rite of passage for adult children. My parents moved in with me 2002. Mother died 2012 after just 6 weeks of suddenly diagnosed massive cancer throughout. Dad will be 93 in November. He’s altogether except natural frailties of advanced years. He’s more than my father. He’s my friend and buddy. I pray each day that his presence in my life be extended in good health. I don’t want to think about the devastation that will hit me.
I have been well. Good reports cardiologist, oncologist, urologist. Diagnosed Diabetes 2 year and a half ago. Musta been like this decade or more. Take Metformin. Presently no bad side effects from disease and esp glad no eye damage at all. Psych meds Wellbutrin, Lamictol. Moved from Miami(after 60 years) Jan 2015 and now in Greensboro, NC. Have a son here. Regards…
Hi Carl. Thank you for speaking about you and your parents. Your folks sound special. I look forward to meeting them.
I’m glad your health is good too! I think about it.
I didn’t know u moved. Excellent to b near son. That improves QOL!
Thinking of your granddaughter too.
Oh Dr. Q!!! So sad! You are strong and may God give you strength! My dad is my life as well and I am feeling your pain!
Thank you Sheila.