We commented back and forth a little and I tried unsuccessfully to send her a link to the original post. So, for Shelli, and any of the rest of us who need a reminder at the celebration of life that a person’s final moments can be:
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’ish years. He was told at that time 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: Elisabeth, Katie & I, as well as four
granddaughters. Steve & Elisabeth have Shelby & Sarah, while Chris
married into Maya and later we had Kajsa. 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 into 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
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 everyday.
Whether I’m playing with his granddaughter 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,
26, 1944 – June 21, 2004
I’ve been lately thinking about my life’s time
All the things I’ve done and how it’s been
And I can’t help believin’ in my own mind
I know I’m gonna hate to see it end.
I’ve seen a lot of sunshine, slept out in the rain
Spent a night or two all on my own
I’ve known my lady’s pleasures, had myself some friends
Spent a time or two in my own home.
I have to say it now it’s been a good life, all in all,
It’s really fine to have a chance to hang around.
Lie there by the fire and watch the evening tire,
While all my friends and my old lady,
sit and pass a pipe around
And talk of poems and prayers and promises
And things that we believe in
How sweet it is to love someone,
How right it is to care.
How long it’s been since yesterday,
What about tomorrow and what about our dreams
And all the memories we share.
Days they pass so quickly now, the nights are seldom long
Time around me whispers when it’s cold.
The changes somehow frightens me, still I have to smile
It turns me on to think of growing old.
Although my life’s been good to me, there’s still so much to do
So many things my mind has never known
I’d like to raise a family, I’d like to sail away
And dance across the mountains on the moon.