“I have to get my yardarm clear”, as my Dad would say. Meaning, to clear oneself of blame and settle any outstanding grievances. Fulfilling the last wishes of a dying loved one is not always possible. This is a difficult thing to admit. It’s even more difficult breaking the news to your terminally ill father.
My father is in advanced end stages of kidney failure. He received a stem cell transplant almost 6 years ago for 2 types of cancer and remains in remission. A blessing. The diseases and treatments over the last 8 years were brutal on his body. As a result, his kidneys took the greatest hit. Now, they are tanking. It’s the end of the line. It could be months or, weeks. But, once dialysis is stopped we are looking at days.
“The biggest mistake we make in life is thinking we have time.”
Already his breathing is laboured and he’s retaining fluid. He tires quickly and sleeps most of the day. Except when there’s company. Then he’s bright and engaging. Happy to be catered to and entertained. What people don’t see is the constant pain he suffers from due to extensive nerve damage. This pain is getting worse. It won’t go away. It will only increase as fluid pressure builds in his body and his cells are deprived of oxygen.
As his body shuts down he will swell, no longer be able to walk, have no appetite, experience increasing pain and struggle for breath. His bodily functions will slow down or cease all together. His fatigue will increase and he will sleep more and more. Eventually, he will slip into unconsciousness. Breath becomes shallower as end of life draws near.
Managing Expectations-A Harsh Reality
Dad said he wants a peaceful death. I can’t promise him that. I can promise him that his pain will be managed and he will receive the best care possible. I can promise him he will be surrounded by family and friends. I can promise him that my sister and I will advocate for him as best we can in the coming months, weeks and days.
Dad said he wants to die at home. I can’t promise him that either. His care is complicated. As we explained the likely process he would experience, he began to understand the level of care and intervention that would be involved. 24 hour care, turning, toileting, administration of pain medications. Around the clock. His romantic vision of closing his eyes and gently slipping into the ether dissipated. Palliative care is his best option when the time comes.
Dying-It’s a Family Affair
As a family, we reviewed his personal directive, power of attorney and will. Everything is in order legally. We discussed his wishes for body disposition. “Chuck me in the ground.” Got it. We talked about details for a funeral service. Flowers, readings and music. Johnny Cash and Nana Mouskouri, check. No reception because crust less sandwiches are stupid. We compiled a list of people to contact and drafted an obituary.
We had a good laugh over what he wants on his headstone. Dad has A LOT of interests. If we included every icon or symbol, it would look like a graphic novel. And, just a little tacky. He settled on the 3 most meaningful. An anchor, the Freemason’s square and compass and 4 thistles representing him, Mom, my sister and I. A nod to our Celtic heritage.
Final Wishes-Last Requests of a Dying Man
I asked Dad if he had any special requests. Things he wanted to do while he is still in relative good health. A bucket list, if you will. His response was not surprising and, perfectly Dad:
- Make peace with anyone I have wronged
- Visit with Angie, Mom’s lifelong friend
- Go for a walk in Abbecombec
- Have a big feed of lobster with the people I love
These are promises that I can keep. Although, the first one is up to him.
What does this mean for you, Kel?
Ya know, I’m not totally sure. I will be focusing on my father’s care and managing his estate affairs. We are helpless to Covid changes that may occur at any time. Reducing support and accessibility of services. It may mean that somedays nothing gets shared on social media platforms for A Sorted Affair. It may mean less regular blog posts. I’m still here. My business is still active. However, my priorities have shifted and I’m not sure for how long. I know you understand. We’ll sort it out together.
Yours in All Things Sorted,
PS. Clear your yardarm. Make peace. Tell your people you love them. In the end, love is all that matters. These are my last wishes.