Archive for May, 2008

Voice

May 6, 2008

Dad moved into
skilled care Friday.
This may be temporary,
but probably it’s not.
He’s getting continually weaker.
His moments of real clarity
occur less frequently.
My sister Patty came from Colorado to see Dad,
not knowing she would be spending her time
overseeing this transition.
The doctor had ordered a diagnostic procedure
during Dad’s hospitalization,
but Dad’s blood was too thin at the time.
The procedure is painful and a little risky,
especially for an 88-year-old.
Dad was to be brought back in this week,
so the procedure could be done as an outpatient.
At one point Patty asked the physician,
“If he were your father,
would you proceed with this test?”
The doctor paused, then said, “Probably not.”
“Then please remove his name from the schedule,”
Patty said. “He’ll go without it.”
When aides were not putting up guard rails
on Dad’s bed, Patty said,
“It’s important to raise those rails each time,
otherwise he’ll fall again.”
These are only two of many examples
of how Patty has spoken up for Dad this week.
As his energy has waned and his voice has weakened,
she has stood tall beside him
and said what he was unable to say
or did not know how to say.

Being the voice for the one in our care
can be one of our most important tasks.
When doctors move and talk rapidly, we can say,
“Please repeat that more slowly
so we both can understand you.”
When complex medical procedures are proposed,
we can ask about risks and benefits, saying,
“After we talk this over in private,
I’ll tell you what my care receiver wants.”
When the one in our care is ill-equipped
to speak their concerns or state their case,
we can be their sound voice for them,
speaking their truth with authority.
If we don’t do that, then who will?
If we don’t serve as their advocates,
who else will step forward?

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Journey

May 2, 2008

The call came
at 4 a.m. Tuesday.
“Your father’s on his way
to the hospital
in an ambulance.”
He had fallen again.
I drove to Warsaw where our youngest brother
was already watching over Dad’s care.
Dad was weak and disoriented,
unable to stand, much less walk.
He has improved slightly day by day,
but this morning he’s being transferred
to a skilled care setting.
I find it difficult to have him make this transition,
to make the transition with him.
But this is the next step,
the appropriate step,
the responsible step.
But, oh, it’s sad to watch,
sad to participate in.
His world keeps narrowing,
as he’s no longer able to see well,
or hear well, or think well.
Life still beats within him,
yet he makes it clear that he’s ready
to let life go.

For some of us,
this is where our caregiving inevitably leads.
Despite our best efforts,
the one in our care will not always get better.
All our love and assistance will not reverse
what has been set in motion
within the body and the mind.
As the one in our care surrenders
to that unavoidable journey,
we must surrender alongside them.
As we practice this letting go,
maybe we can find comfort in coming to believe
that this is not just a letting go of,
but a letting go into.
Into a place where memories and dreams
begin to unite in ways they never have.
Into a space that allows for a quiet, gentle preparation
for the completion of this pilgrimage on earth.
Into a territory that has plenty of expanse
for received grace, for gathered meaning,
and for ageless love.
When I began this writing,
I visualized our leading Dad
on that next leg of his journey.
As I conclude this writing,
I see Dad leading all of us
on the journey that we will all take,
that we are all well into already.
He is a wonderful guide.

May you have your wonderful guides too.

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