When It’s The End

Been in Florida the past couple of days. I always joke that Florida is “God’s waiting room” but today it is. My wife’s father is in hospice. I am learning a lot about end of life. I haven’t spent much time in hospitals during my life. I don’t know much about them at all thankfully. I am at the age where I am going to start experiencing it more often, and I am not looking forward to it.

I don’t have a lot of experience with death or dying. But, some of my friends have. My friend Mike passed a couple of years ago from pancreatic cancer. I was at an Economic Club of Chicago dinner and as fate would have it, was seated next to a priest. After the dinner, we talked a lot about the dying process. He told me to tell my friend some things-and I did. The priest said it makes the dying process much easier on the person. My other friend Mike has a lot of experience with death and cancer. He wrote a book about it, The Color of Rain which I highly encourage everyone to read.

On my blog I don’t talk a lot about this stuff very often so I hope you will be tolerant of me today. There might be a couple of more blogs about things I learn-like how fraudsters target widowers. Or, when they ask you how many death certificates you want, at a minimum double the number they offer to you.

My father in law was unresponsive on Thursday and they took him to the hospital. He hasn’t woken up and it’s the end. It wasn’t sudden or even unexpected, since he has had some health problems over the years. But, when it happens it’s never a good time and there is still a bit of a shock. Life is random, and you have to roll with it.

We spent a day and a half in the ICU. For my whole life, I thought the ICU was a hive of activity. Heroic measures being taken to keep people alive. That’s not the ICU, that’s the emergency room. In the ICU, it’s more of a holding tank. A stabilization room.

Internally, I was frustrated with logistics! There are only so many beds. Logistics can frustrate you. You have to take a step back, take a deep breath and no that you have no control over the process. When it opens up, it opens up. Things move when the system lets them move.

A bed opened up in hospice. Hospice is pretty awesome for the experience that we are going through. I think for loved ones closest to the person, it’s a tough pill to swallow. It’s final. It’s giving up hope which is tough for humans to do. It means dealing with a lot of emotion that you might not necessarily want to unearth.

For the person undergoing the process of moving from earth to the spiritual world-I think hospice is a wonderful thing. It’s a lot more comfortable for them. Quieter. Less distracting. Dying people can hear, even if they can’t respond.

For us, it’s waiting. But, the waiting is part of the process too. We go through moments of intensity, and moments of boredom. Anxious moments and moments of guilt. Moments of worry.

The wonders of technology have made this interesting too. We were able to set up a text thread to let everyone know what’s going on. We can use cell phones and people can check in, say things to my father in law as we hold the phone up to his ear. When my wife’s phone rings and we can’t find it she can answer on her Apple watch. We can even Face Time if we want. We can play hymns, sermons, and music my father in law likes. For people that can’t be here, it helps. We can watch him react. His breathing changes, and sometimes he lifts a foot to acknowledge us.

One of the things my wife and I have done over the past few years is a lot of Iyengar Yoga. Believe it or not, it helps in this situation. Instead of worrying about things we cannot control, we are staying in the moment and trying to keep everyone else in the moment. Dying is a process-it’s hard work. My father in law saw battle in Korea. He knows about dying and the force to live is strong within him. I believe that living force is strong in humans.

People of different religious beliefs think differently about death. Yet, because we are all human, the dying process is the same.

As a Christian, I believe in life after death. Your body dies, but your spirit lives on. Since your family has such an outsize effect on the life you live, it might be that those spirits exert a stronger pull on you after they die. Of course, there is no scientific proof of that. Maybe the best way to honor those spirits is by sharing what you learned from that person while they were on earth with other people you come in contact with. It helps keep the memory alive, and keeps their earthly spirit burning inside people.

See if you can use someone’s spirit who touched your life to touch others. See what happens.

  • JLM

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your wife. Getting old is not for the weak of mind and dying is worse. The English language does not possess the right words at times like this.



    • Thanks. Need to rebalance my blood with a little Texas BBQ. That might happen in April.

  • Peter Cz

    It is nice to see you have been doing yoga in the past years – and I hope it helps you to accept this process. And I hope it helps you to accept other processes in your life. And I hope it helps you to accept others. As all these are the same. We all go through the same things. All one, all equal. 🙂

    • Yup. It does help. Did some yoga on our walk outside just to stretch the joints out and expand the mind a little. Saw two osprey feeding their young and a huge (5ft?) tarpon.

  • David Schweppe

    A very personal and remarkable posting. Jeff, my prayers are there for your family. May the Lord bless him and keep him. May the Lord make his face to shine upon him, and be gracious to him; and may the Lord lift up his countenance upon all of you, and give you peace. – David Schweppe

    • And they are Missouri Synod! So they’d appreciate having you around : )

  • Karen (Carver) Fouts

    It is well and truly a lesson in “living life on life’s terms”…and I can certainly relate. The ability to be in the moment can be a bittersweet gift, but it is a gift nonetheless. Peace and light to your father-in-law, and to you and your whole family, Jeff.

  • awaldstein

    My condolences to your family on the loss.

    I went through this last July with my Mom’s passing. For me the only way to address it is to embrace it.

    Writing about it truly helped me.

    My very best to the family. As a friend, I am always here for you.

    • I remember your blog about your Mom. What a great memory, and what a cool woman. The guy in the room next to us is 103. He speaks loudly because he is deaf. However, whenever anyone walks in the room he greets them positively. It’s really amazing.

      • awaldstein

        each experience is unique as is our relationships to our parents.

        i believe that these relationships are redefined and relearned by each of us over and over again.

  • Dan Kunze

    Thanks for the personal post. I have been through so much of this in the past year and have more to come this year. It is simply a factor of the age I am at.

    I watched my father die very quickly last March. I spoke with him in the morning and he was gone that evening. It was not cool for me to see that but maybe it is better for others to see their loved ones pass away. It took me six months to reconcile it all, and I was pretty close to checking in to therapy but I made it. I have come out the other side.

    Our thoughts and prayers will go out to you and your family in this difficult time. Upon speaking with others and sharing their experiences, I have come to realize that there is no playbook, and no timeline when it comes to this stuff. Best to you.