Tribute to Paul

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June 21st marks a very important anniversary in
my family. One year ago my
father-in-law, Paul decided to discontinue dialysis therapy. This may seem to be a horrific thought to
some of you out there. But for him it
was a very courageous and well thought out decision.

You see, Paul had developed type one diabetes at 11 or 12
years old and lived with it for 48 years. He was originally told that he probably wouldn’t live to be
thirty. He and my mother in law, Lynne,
had three rowdy boys: Steve, Erick & Chris; followed by a very much alive
daughter, Heather. Paul also got to see
all of his boys married, as well as looking into the eyes of four beautiful  granddaughters.  So he’d seen so much more than he ever
expected to.

Now during this time his health continued to decline. By the time that I met Paul, he was already
sporting two prosthetic legs and soon thereafter lost three of his
fingers. I saw him go in and out of the hospital and rehabilitation centers more times than I remember. Through all of this, he usually kept both his
senses of wonder and humor. It often
made me feel awed, myself when I was around him. His love of life tended to be
contagious. Now I’m not saying that
every day was fluffy clouds and flying unicorns. But looking back, his joy of life and thirst
for divinity, are what I remember most about him.

When he went back into the hospital for the last time, he’d
lost another dialysis catheter site and they were talking about placing a port
in his last whole arm. It actually
didn’t take Paul long to decide that this wouldn’t do. I cannot possibly imagine the conversation
that he must have had with Lynne. To try
to do so might just break my heart. We
got the call later that day to tell Chris that his father had decided to allow
himself to die with dignity. How could
he not – it was how he’d lived his life. We made some phone calls and headed off to the hospital.

Paul couldn’t see very well by then, but was so overjoyed to
have us present. There were so many
photo albums to pore over and talk about. I left for a while as I knew that relatives would be pouring in and I
wanted to clean the house. This also
gave the boys some time alone with their dad.

Calls were quickly made to Hospice and Paul was brought home
to receive his constant flow of visitors. His last meal was delicious biscuits and gravy ala Erick (who had raced
back from California) and on
father’s day he had the tiniest sip of scotch with his children.

It took 3 days for Paul’s body to shut down and he left us on
summer solstice – the longest day of the year. He breathed his last breath in the most, well, beautiful way imaginable
– with his family all standing round holding him and telling him that they
loved him. And we all meant it so incredibly
much. I think that everyone who ever
knew him is a better person for it.

It has been a year since that night, but I still think about
Paul every day. Whether I’m playing with
his grand-daughter and she looks at me just so or I find myself gawking at the
beauty of life with its full spectrum of possibilities, he’ll just pop into my
head. As the anniversary of his passing
has drawn nearer I’ve felt an increasing need to express my love and admiration
for Paul – husband, father, son, brother, uncle, seeker, teacher, adventurer,
inspiration…

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