Home > Family Life, Random File > death, dignity, and a last HURRAH with family

death, dignity, and a last HURRAH with family

I got an email followed by a phone call shortly after I arrived home yesterday afternoon.  My dad’s sister has will be going into hospice next week, and the call has been put out for all available family to travel to Minnesota for a last hurrah.  Aunt Diane is currently in the hospital due to dehydration.    After putting up with Crohn’s Disease for close to 30 years, and numerous surgeries, they have finally taken out so much of her intestines that she is unable to maintain enough fluids in her system even with being fed intravenously and receiving IV fluids.   Coupled with this the arthritis in her hands has made it hard for her to take care of herself.  She has become so weak that she can hardly walk even with her walker.   

She will be released from the hospital Monday, for a couple days, during which we (my wife and I) will be taking her out to a Casino so she can try to enjoy herself for a day or two.   After which she will return to the Hospital and enter the Hospice… and At this time she is going to refuse all medications and IV feeding, except for pain killers, so she can pass quietly into the hereafter with no more pain and her dignity intact. 


Having spent my childhood doing the military family moves every three or four years, my visits to Minnesota were few and far between. I don’t really have any memories of Diane beyond hearing my parents talk about her and seeing an occasional picture.  But she’s expressed a desire to see everyone in the family, so I am trying to go.  I’ll need to fly to MN Sunday and would return last Monday or Tuesday, but Ro’s flight home wasn’t till Monday.  I thought I had a plan to send the kids on sleepovers with friends whose parents would be taking their own children to the bus stop Monday morning… but that plan is starting to look sketchy.  Ro called this morning to see how things were going and I told him about plan B because I wasn’t sure plan A was going to work… bless him, he called back about an hour later and told me to change his flight to Sunday.  I’ll probably be leaving before he gets in, but at least I’ll only need to get a sitter for the day. 
Halle was only two when my grandfather passed in 2001, so aside from Herbie (RIP), she doesn’t have much experience with the actual loss, even though she talks about “Boppa” like she remembers him.  Last night we had about an hour talk… very tearful.  When Halle last spent the night with Chaz (her best friend until the day they die), she saw something on TV that got her worried about dying.  I think she cried more about Aunt Diane, who I don’t think she really knew existed, than Tyler did when Boppa died.  But I told her… like First Woman in Grandmother’s Gift… Aunt Diane has lived a long life, and a good life, and she is not afraid.  It is her time to die, and she wants to see her family and then cross over to the other side… making room for new life here on Earth.


Wednesday, November 07, 2001 11:25 PM

I spoke with Tyler after I picked him up from school today. The conversation flowed smoother than I expected, and I know he is forewarned, but I am sure that as the reality of this sets in he will have questions or maybe some acting out or depression. I asked him if he remembered what was in his body, and he said yes, his spirit, and that spirits held love and care. We talked about how bodies sometimes got old and stopped working or sometimes they could get hurt really badly and stop working, and he said, yes, and then the body dies. We talked about how the spirit is forever, and that when a person dies it is their body, but the spirit doesn’t die. Tyler said spirits are stronger than any bad things and they are even stronger than houses. I asked Tyler where he thought spirits went when the body dies, and he said, up there. I figured I could work with that theory, and I said yes, the body becomes part of the earth and that the spirit goes to the spirit world. I reminded Tyler of the verse in our bedtime prayer…

Mother Earth, bless & father sky keep
Ancestors watch me while I sleep
Protect my heart, protect my home,
Protect my spirit as I roam (this references dreaming)
Sister moon and brother star watching over us from afar, bless (and then we list family)

I reminded Tyler that ancestors are members of our family who have already died and whose spirits have gone to the spirit world, and that they watch over us, protect us, and guide us, particularly through our dreams. I asked him if he remembered what the Great Spirit was, and that it was the thing that makes life, the force that is in every living thing. I reminded him of a conversation we had long ago when he picked up a meal grace I didn’t approve of, where I had explained that God wasn’t a man sitting in the sky deciding who deserved food and who didn’t, but that God is a great spirit that is everywhere and in everything that lives, and that the great spirit is in the earth and the sun and the stars and the sky, that the great spirit lives in him and me, that the spirits inside us that make our bodies work and our minds think are all part of the same great spirit so god isn’t ‘out there’, the Great Spirit is ‘in here’ and that we are all a part of the great spirit and the great spirit is a part of everything. I said to him, you know boppa is pretty sick right now. Tyler responded yes, and that Boppa was going to die. I explained, as we have discussed before, that everything living has a time to die (we’ve lost several fish), but that Boppa’s body had been getting older and older and some parts of it were very worn out and that his body was really hurting badly. I explained that his spirit might have to leave his body soon, I told him that when our spirits have to leave our bodies that they go back with the great spirit so that they can be everywhere, that we can’t see or touch their bodies anymore, but the spirits are always wherever we need them and that we can always tell them we love them. I explained that boppa was a little confused about the changes in his body, and a little nervous about his spirit, but that right now he really needed to know that we loved him, and that we don’t want Boppa to be worried right now. We went to the hospital tonight, and I told Tyler that I knew he might have questions, but that we would need to talk about them later… I told Tyler that if I squeezed his arm or hand, that I needed him to help me out by telling Boppa that he loved him.

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