She's a Handicapper now..and I'm saying "Champagne, Anyone?"

She's a Handicapper now..and I'm saying "Champagne, Anyone?"

Friday, October 16, 2015

On Death and Acceptance

For the third time in my life...I am dealing with the death of a family member. This time it is my mother-in-law. Diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, her days are numbered and any chance of "beating it" are non-existent. At this point, it's a matter of when.

To see the change in Amy (or I call her) is devastating.

The frequent gasping for breath due to her diminished lung capacity. The end of her independence and freedom to do what she wants whenever she wants. The anxiety attacks because of the fear and the physical restraints. The long hospital stay and subsequent rehabilitation process.

Death sucks this way.

I went through it with both my parents. I guess I'm prepared for it. My wife Sonya went through both of those long, slow and cruel cessations with me but this one is different. It's her Mom.

Hospice has been mentioned. She has a list of medications and treatment the length of a grocery shopping list. Home health care and breathing treatments. You get the picture.

Still, in this rapid decline and slow deterioration...there remains a fiercely independent and stubborn woman. Maybe it's because she has been on her own since the early eighties. Maybe it's because she refuses to go gently into that good night. For 35 years...she set the schedule. Now, the schedule is set by her abilities...not her desires.

 It's hard to watch. It's hard to be strong. It's hard to accept...but eventually that long train comes around the bend. That final card is played and that last light is turned off.

I worked 40 hours a week in 1998 and 2006 when my parents passed away. Drove in from Lexington to spend the final five hours of my mother's life in a hospital bed. Her final words were:

"I think I'm ready to go to the mountains."

The final thing she heard was my father talking to her on the phone. She sighed...and the breathing stopped.

My Dad's ordeal was longer and more painful to endure. A trip to the emergency room because of bowel blockage. An admission to the hospital where pneumonia and sepsis set in. An induced coma and those final hours when he was brought out of it to see if he could breath and to see if there was any recognition left. He could not and there was not.

I don't want to go that way. Hanging on, lingering on. Slowly slipping away.

And, I won't.

When that curtain is opened and I receive the news that my performance will be ending soon...I will double the efforts to live. The bucket list will be enacted. I will go out, if at all possible, with the same bravado, swagger and amicable demeanor that has shaped these almost 60 years.

I just hope that final chapter is a long time away. There is so much more I want to see, to experience.

Sykes men (my father, uncles) have all lived into their nineties plus. I want to join that club.


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