There are many things on my mind today that I need to talk about, mostly to get it off my chest, but also to let you know about them.
In 1979, my youngest brother, Bobby, was the victim of a freak accident that killed him. He was a truck driver, and had arrived at his destination. He was walking around looking for someone to accept his freight, when two heavy boxes fell off of an outside elevator. One hit him on his chest, the other hit him on his back. The impact of the first one exploded one of his lungs, broke his sternum, and bruised his heart. The one that hit his back broke his spine. He lived for three days before passing away. He was twenty two years old.
At the moment of his death, I was sleeping in the ICU waiting room. I was dreaming that Bobby was walking across a green field towards a fence. On the other side of the fence, were people who had passed on before him, and they were all waving to him to come and welcoming him to the other side. He had his back to me, but he turned around and waved to me and smiled. I thought that it meant he was going to be ok, and the dream made me feel happy for him. However, just as he had turned to me and smiled in the dream, I was awakened by a loud alarm, which was the code blue at the hospital. My brother had just died from his injuries.
A little while after my brother died, someone gave me a copy of a book called “Life After Life“. It was about people who had died, and then been brought back to life. Nearly every one of them described walking across a green field towards a different place. It was then that I understood that the dream I had was my brother saying goodbye to me.
My Father passed away in November, 1992, just a few months after Fabgrandpa and I got married. Daddy had cancer of the liver. He was diagnosed the week of Halloween that year, and died the week of Thanksgiving. It was so fast our heads were spinning. I don’t know if he made his last wishes known, but he did have a funeral, and was buried next to my younger brother, Bobby.
During the last couple of days of Daddy’s life, a couple of things happened that have stuck with me for nearly 22 years. The first thing is that he wanted each of us, his five remaining children, to come in one by one so he could say goodbye privately. When it was my turn, I went in and sat in the chair next to his bed. He was lying there with his eyes closed. He started talking to me, telling me how much he loved me, how proud he was of me in my life, and blah blah blah. Then he opened his eyes and looked at me, and said “Oh, I thought you were _____” (insert name of one of my siblings here). Then he proceeded to tell me what he really thought of me. Yes, I am an adult, and he was on his deathbed, and I should be able to just let it go. But that was the last thing I heard my father say to me, and it still hurts.
The second thing that happened was at the time of my father’s death. Several of us were at his bedside, and he was gasping for breath. My brother leaned over and told Daddy that it was ok for him to go. And Daddy died. And at the moment that he died, the tornado sirens started alarming in town. My sister said he went out on a storm. It would seem so.
As you may know if you have been reading my blog for a while, my mother was in the hospital and then in a physical therapy rehab facility for about three months last year. She is 85 years old and mostly in good health, but she woke up one morning and couldn’t get out of bed because she felt dizzy and nauseated. My sister called 911, and they carted her off to the hospital. Mama spent a week in the hospital, with no real diagnosis. The doctor felt that she was better enough to go home, so she did. She spent one night in her own bed, and due to the same symptoms and very high blood pressure, she wound up back in the hospital for another week.
At the end of the second week, the medical providers had decided that she had a UTI and had her on an antibiotic to clear it up, and had stabilized her blood pressure, and said she was well enough to leave the hospital. However, she was not able to get out of bed by herself, so she was not allowed to go home. Her doctor told us the best thing to do was to send her to a rehab facility, so we did. Mama was angry at us for sending her there. It was the best thing to do, though. She spent about ten weeks in rehab, and had intense physical therapy every day. She didn’t like it, didn’t like being there, but when she did get to go home, she was walking better than she had in years.
When all this happened, Mama did not have a will. My sister, who is the main caregiver for our mother, told me that every time she has brought up making a will, Mama has gotten upset and says that she thinks we are trying to rush her death, or something like that. But after the experience of last summer, she did finally decide to get a will made. I’m not sure, though, if she has a Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR). I’m not clear on what her wishes are for a DNR, whether she wants or does not want to be resuscitated if she has a terminal illness occur.
The whole reason I thought about whether or not my Mother has a DNR or not is that my father-in-law (Poppa) did have one. He has been a pretty tough guy all these years, and has spent the last twenty or so years taking care of my mother-in-law (Nana), who has several health issues over the years, and has not been able to walk or get up by herself or quite some time.
Nana has been in and out of the hospital for several years. Three years ago, she fell and broke her hip, had hip surgery, and went into a rehab facility and stayed for about three months. Physical therapists at the facility worked with her every day during that time, but she never did regain her ability to walk. In January of this year, she was hospitalized, and spent months there. She was transferred to a rehab facility, and then to a nursing home, and just went home at the end of May.
Sometime during the time that Nana was gone away from home, Poppa had a stroke. He was living alone but had a care giver who came every day to check on him, and do things for him. I’m not exactly sure when he had the stroke, but I do know that when we went to visit in May around Mother’s Day, he seemed to be fine, his old self. When we saw him next, he was in the same nursing home that Nana was in. That was at the beginning of June. He was still walking with a walker, and still talking and making sense, even though he did slur his speech when he was tired. He went home from the nursing home the next week, and on Father’s Day, we drove up to visit.
The Father’s Day visit was a very sad one for me. Poppa was in a wheelchair, not able to walk. He could still talk, but he was very difficult to understand. He asked to go out on the porch, then he wanted to go inside, several times. When his care giver served his lunch, he was sitting in his wheelchair next to me at the kitchen table. He sat there for a couple of minutes, looking at his food as if trying to decide how to eat it. Then he asked me to feed him. It was all I could do not to cry.
One day a couple of weeks ago, Poppa was taken to the ER during the night, but refused treatment. He has a DNR, so the ER sent him home, and set up an appointment with a hospice provider. They set him up on in home hospice care. When we visited with him on Sunday, June 22, he was in a hospital bed, sleeping for most of the time we were there. I went over and held his hand, and told him I loved him. He squeezed my hand hard, really hard, and said “I love you too, Sweetheart”. I know he knew it was me. He has called me Sweetheart for as long as I have known him. He passed away in his sleep on June 26.
Poppa’s told everyone what he wanted for after he passed away. He will be cremated, and did not want a funeral. He wants everyone who loves him to get together and have a party. So, we will be having a Celebration of Life party for him next week. It will be odd going to his home with him not being there, but I will see him in every one of his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. He was a very loving and kind man, and has many people who loved him. It will be a great party, I am sure.
After thinking about all this over the past couple of weeks, it feels right for me to let my family know what I want after I am gone. I know they don’t have to honor my wishes, but if they do, here is what I want. My first choice would be to be buried wrapped in a shroud of cotton fabric (one of my quilts if possible) at Milton Fields in Alpharetta, Georgia. It is a “Green Cemetery”, and allows you to be buried directly into the ground without being embalmed. This allows your body to go back to nature, the way it was intended to be. If that is not possible, my second choice is to be cremated, and have my ashes scattered at the Grand Canyon North Rim up by Point Imperial.
Have you made a will? Have you told your family what you want to happen after you pass away? Death is a part of life, so it is important for every one of us to make a plan, and let our family and friends know what to do.