Was it sudden or did I finally listen to the voice in my head? Life crystallized for me over the past few months with the death of my father and father in law.
My son turned 20 on Valentine’s Day. The following day my father in law was brought to the hospital, aged 89, unable to swallow. When I say he couldn’t swallow, I mean nothing, not even his own saliva. Dysphagia is the medical term, something I had never heard of.
The Doctor’s and Nurses tried but nothing worked. After three weeks in the hospital his choice was simple? A feeding tube, inserted into his stomach, and constant suction with a wand to prevent choking. Quality of life not too good, and most likely death from pneumonia -OR- no feeding tube and go home to starve to death under hospice care. My father in law, Joe, made the decision, he had enough of hospitals, he had a good life, he wanted to die at home.
We brought him home on a Friday. That entire weekend the house was packed with family and friends. My father in law was still healthy enough to talk to everyone, enjoy a beer (although he couldn’t swallow), and he was so happy. The non stop house party continued until the following Wednesday night. He started to really lose weight fast and his sleep was growing longer. He had a very lucid evening after waking up and the family all laughed with him. He fell asleep Wednesday night, March 11. COVID-19 was starting to really hit the County, with overseas travel suspended and businesses starting to consider closing. He didn’t wake up Thursday morning, just a period or two of restlessness. He passed away at 3:05 PM, March 12. The funeral was the following Monday and by the time the funeral was over Churches were closed and we were full blown into quarantine.
My father, Carmen, had congestive heart failure. He received a pacemaker in November 2008. In October 2019 his doctors declared him healthy enough to have pacemaker replacement. After what looked like successful surgery he developed a massive chest infection and the pacemaker removed from his chest, an operation in which he almost died after an overdose of pain medication in recovery caused him to crash and be intubated. The recovery from this second surgery was hard on him as he was immobile and his weakening heart weakening further. The Doctor’s put the new pacemaker back into him in February, his third operation. He was in the same hospital at the same time as my Father in Law. The week after my Father in Law’s funeral my Dad had his fourth operation since October, this time because the pacemaker they just put in wasn’t communicating. He was never same after that last operation. By the time we brought him back to the hospital two weeks later he was starting to hallucinate and he was slurring words and shuffling around slowly. They turned him away in his moment of need. The discharged him at midnight the night we brought him to the ER because they needed to keep beds open in case of the COVID wave that never came. The next morning, Friday April 3 we called his Doctor, sent a strip of data, and the Doctor told us to rush him to a different hospital. He was admitted but we couldn’t see him because, you know, COVID. I called his room on Saturday morning and we spoke, but he was confused and it wasn’t really a conversation. We spoke on Sunday morning and he seemed a bit better actually. Things turned bad by Monday. The hospital seemed resigned to him dying, saying his heart was only pumping at 15%, the same 15% it had been pumping at for years. His kidneys started to fail. I never spoke to him again. They finally let me and my family in at 12:30, Wednesday April 8th. He was dead at 3:30 PM, 3 hours later.
I’m 53, going to be 54 in December. I’m healthy. No one knows how much time they have or how many healthy years they have. I’ve worked hard in my life, since leaving high school early to join the US Navy Submarine Service, I’ve clawed my way to being the top Operations Manager and Senior Vice President of the company I work for, a green energy and renewable gas business. I see the end, around 60. What am I going to do with my healthy retirement years? I assume I’ll have 20 years, but there are no promises and nothing is taken for granted. I want to die like my Father and Father in Law, accomplished and nothing left on the table.
I have goals, short term and my Capstone, the name of the blog. The Capstone is the last great adventure. I know what I want it to be, but I’ll talk about it more fully in a future posting.
Satori. The Japanese word for sudden awakening, an a-ha moment, a light bulb turning on feeling. I’ve had a sudden awakening in 2020. It’s time to continue with the rest of my life.