Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Loving Act

Gramps is dying. My mom called last night to give me the most recent news. After months of dramatic decline, her father is back in the hospital and it now looks as if he’ll never return to the life he once knew.

My Gram, after 65 years of marriage, has had to make a heartbreaking decision: “I hope you’re not going to hate me,” she whispers to my mom on the phone. Gramps is back in the hospital with a lung infection after his food has been going down the wrong passageway, and, given the other complications of his health, the only way to sustain him now would be to use a feeding tube, and that doubles him up with more pain. “I’ve decided he should not have the tube,” Gram says, her voice breaking.

My mother’s been thinking about Gramps’ suffering for months now. “This is a loving act, Mom,” she chokes out. “You’re honoring his life.”

Thankfully, my mother’s siblings agree. Besides, this is in keeping with Gramps’ living will – that no extreme measures be taken to keep him alive should his body start to shut down. Like this.

She’s honoring the life of the family man, the soldier, the salesman, the farmer, the roofer (even into his eighties, much to Gram’s chagrin). She's honoring the life of the boy who was forced to leave home at twelve to live on the banks of the Salmon River, the man who could tell stories as long and meandering as that river.

So, tomorrow I fly two states away and return the next day, hopefully with my goodbyes rightly said. I bring with me images of a tire swing in the carport, whittling on the porch with our pocket knives, and waiting for fish to bite in a little boat in the middle of a lake on a black night.

I also bring knowledge of a body now weaker, morphine for pain, and an uncharacteristic inability to speak. Because Gramps, after all, is dying.


Anonymous said...

I'm with you in spirit Anj. I just went through this a month ago. My prayers are with you and your family.


Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you & yours, Anjie. What a difficult decision to make but completely out of love.
I'm praying for you all.

Perhaps as you're writing these next 2 weeks, Lauren's voice can keep on speaking through you. He was a story teller and you a story writer. There's a connection - God bless his memory.