Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Summons to Boston

Where has Cookie been you may be, or not, asking since it has been a bit of time since the last post.

Well, last week we were summoned to Boston.  And it has been a life affirming and draining week plus.

Last week, were told that my beloved father in law had chosen to receive hospice care.  At 93, his body, well worn with medical woes, was just worn out.  Without going into the actual diagnosis, lets just say that there were internal issues from which even the healthiest of people couldn't survive.

I asked the Husband if we needed to go up there and he said, in typical practical New England fashion that it would be best for them to get him settled at home with hospice than to add to the confusion.  And according to his sister, he was resting as comfortably as he could.  We would go up when the dust settled, as it were.

The next day we kicked around the house, we ate dinner and that evening while working on unending genealogy projects, the husband came up, and with the greatest certainty and authority and announced that Dad had taken a turn for the worse. We were flying to Boston first thing in the morning.  OK.  That was easy.

We rounded up the dogs, packed one suitcase with clothes, the other with our suits, and left the next morning.  The dogs were dropped off at the Ritz to share a room, have different sittings for dinner, and have play time with their friends and then we encountered traffic like no one could have imagined.  BWI is on the other end of town and there is no easy way to get there.  It's only a half hour drive, but an hour into this my heart sank, certain that this was going to be a sign of things to come.

Thank God I am wrong a great deal of time.  I would make a lousy medium.

The minute we hit the airport everything clicked - ticket, TSA, the gate was close, and thankfully the plane was delayed in getting there.  We waited ten minutes and we were off.  Seamless flight, our bags were the first on the carousel, the right rental car was waiting and no traffic in the Ted Williams Tunnel or on the Mass Pike.

We arrived at the hospital at 11:30 and he looked very bad.  He had lost consciousness the night before and his heart rate and respiration were irregular.  My sister in law was sitting by the bed.  She told us that Mom had been there and said her goodbyes.  Brother in Law (BiL) #3 had just left with her to take her home, and even though her health issues present problems, she was in the minute and understood that the end was near.

His medical team of Dr. Li and Dr. Le (Dr. Li was a young woman, and Dr. Le an even younger male) came in to speak with us and explain everything.  "What we are part of is something very rare and special.  Seldom does a patient received a diagnosis, tell us that they wish to end life, and undertake it upon themselves as your father has done.  Most get a diagnosis, and days or weeks go by before they pass.  But he was very certain that he did not want to continue given the prognosis."

The hospital brought us coffee and muffins, and we sat a short while.  BiL#2 and his husband showed up to see Dad at a quarter of two, and he had his time to say good bye.  I noticed that Dad's head had moved backwards some, but everyone else thought that I just saw him jaw flex. His IV bags were going to changed and monitors gave their indication that the bags were running dry.  The nurse came in, turned off that alarm and went to retrieve two more bags of IV food and fluids.

At 2PM we were feeling hungry and wondering if the cafeteria was open, when I looked at Dad and before my eyes, his color went from pale to yellow.  I said so to my husband.  He looked at the respiratory and heart rates.  Both numbers were greyed out.  The nurse came in and went right back out and came back in with Dr. Li.

Dr. Li explained that she believed that Husband's father had passed, and peacefully.  She explained what she need to do next, which was a prolonger listening for a heartbeat, and the checking of pulse.  She called his death at 2PM.

This is the second person that I have been with when they have died.  It's an honor to be there.  And it was so like my father in law, henceforth known as dad.  Though sometimes befuddled by age, he was a very kind man, a gentle soul, and always the gentleman.  He was a very dry sense of humor, and a brilliant man who accomplished so very much - some of his accomplishments are things that you know about, may use, or have friends or family members may use.

While I was the most task driven person there, it's only since we've arrived back home that the magnitude of this event has reared its head.  Intellectually, I know Dad is gone.  But there is in my mind this image of him standing in the kitchen of his home, arms wide stretched and ready for a hug, that I cannot let go of.  That is how I choose to remember him.  I will miss my father in law more as my father than an inlaw.

And this is going to take some time to get over.


  1. Thank you; that is a lovely and moving telling of a very important moment, and I feel lucky you have shared it with us.

  2. You have my deepest sympathies, my dear. A sympathetically told story, one of which Dad would be proud. Jx

  3. I'm so sorry, Stu. My best thoughts are with you and E! But that we should all be surrounded by so much love when our times come.

  4. Sos sorry for your loss. Perhaps one day you will share more of your favorite memories of him with us.

  5. Hospice is the unsung hero of our generation.


  6. I know that you felt that this was the least you could do for your father in law, but what you did was a real mitzvah. --Jim

  7. So sorry for your loss, but what a great thing that he was able to go peacefully.

    I was in the room when my mother passed and I remember feeling her leave us. It's a feeling I won't soon forget.

  8. Oh Cookie what a sweet essay. So sorry for your loss.

  9. Having been at the bedside of my mother when she died I agree with your statement, "It's an honor to be there."

    1. It really is. I was with my mother when she died and it was a beautiful, not frightening process. I miss her so much, but I find comfort that she was able to leave the physical pain behind her.