It’s 2018 and I know I’ll have many great things to celebrate in the new year. However, I am fairly certain my father will not be around to celebrate 2019.
You see, my father’s been on hospice for six months.
I’m aware that the amount of time he has been on hospice is not directly related to the timing of his death. I keep reminding myself Art Buchwald lived for over a year after his initial hospice placement and wrote a book during that time.
It’s the other things that have been happening.
My father has lost his ability to stand or even move himself in bed. He’s incontinent. He sleeps almost all day long, and when he wakes, he is groggy and his eyes are closed.
He is not communicating. And it seems like he either is too tired to eat or drink or has trouble swallowing.
I picture my mother lying in her twin bed next to my father’s hospital bed at home thinking about the end being near but not knowing for sure when it will be.
You see, my father has periodic good days. He will say a few words, open his eyes and smile, or enjoy one of his favorite yogurt bars.
It’s those days that shift his straight line of decline into a jagged pattern of life. One doesn’t know if the next day will bring a new high or a new low.
But one fact is for certain: The lows are getting lower and the highs occur less frequently.
During my daily talks with my mother, I struggle with how to comfort her. Her exhaustion is palpable. Her isolation from the outside world looms over her daily routine.
It’s not a part of life either of them would have wanted; yet for now, my father is still here. He is a presence in the bed next to her, and regardless of his infirmities he is still her husband, her partner and the father of her children.
The new year will bring a change. While there is most definitely a heart-rending side to it, there is also some feeling I cannot quite put my finger on, but the closest word I can come up with is freedom.
The death of my father will free him from his earthly limitations. His soul will join the legions of others who have passed from this world to the next.
My father’s passing will offer my mother a deeper engagement in life, if she so chooses. She will have the freedom to interact with the outside world again and to follow her heart wherever it takes her.
2018 will be a year of growth for our entire family. All of us, I think, will feel relief and emptiness at the same time. This has been a tremendously long journey for both my parents.
So I enter 2018 with one resolution.
To live in the moment. To hold on to the beauty that is my complete family today and pray for the grace to be thoughtful and supportive of myself, my family and my parents’ friends as my father leaves us behind.
Without a doubt, 2018 will be a growing year.