Where the Sane Should Fear to Tread

Therapy Sessions on File


MARCH

March 14, 2012
So Dad went into the BGH Pallative Care Ward on January 16, discussions were held regarding bringing him home (with help) or if now was the time to go into Hospice. Health-wise at that moment in time, the Doc and Social Worker thought it might be a bit early for Hospice, but given the home situation (stairs, Mom not able to support him if he fell, or the high risk of injuring Mom if Dad fell on her) they agreed it might be time after all. Our family - minus spouses - discussed it, pointed out how at home Dad would be house-bound, but in the Hospice he could come out for a 'push', or up to Sis' for dinner (level entrance). Dad and Mom made the final decision and thankfully chose the Hospice option. A week after entering BGH, Dad was transferred to CRIH near Sis and me.

The first thing Dad noted was the food was head-and-shoulders above anything he got in the hospital. The coffee was a little strong (okay, VERY) but it was hot, something he didn't often get in the hospitals. Each room in the Hospice was single-occupancy, and could accommodate an overnight guest (or two). Television and Internet connection came along with the room, but he wasn't restricted to just that room - there was a lovely lounge and dining area he could 'hang out' in as well.

In the hospital, Dad was on IV med, something the Hospice did not do so he being transferred to oral and injectable meds, a process that could take a few days to get right levels. One day he'd have a bit more pain than he liked (made him grumpy) and the next he'd be a bit more groggy. With his ileostomy, diabeties and renal issues, I wasn't really surprised by the fluxuation.

Sunday the twenty-ninth was a dog show day around my house. Squirmy and I were nearly out the door just after nine with hubby when Mom called - Dad's taken a turn. At some point during the night or early morning, it looked like Dad may have had a small stroke or threw a clot. He certainly acted like it, though did seem to improve over the course of the day. Around four-ish, he could raise his hand - slowly and a little unsurely - to scratch his head. He knew who we were, though it appeared it took him a moment or two to recognize us. We were all there throughout the day, Sis and Mom leaving first around four or five, I stayed until after six and Dad's oldest Grandson staying until after nine that evening. I think at that point we all knew the end was coming. We didn't realize it would be the next day.

On his last morning, Dad apparently tried to get out of bed (something he just could not do, even before the stroke the day before). The nurses observed this happening - they'd set up a web-cam in his room a few days before when he'd shown signs of trying to get up - and went in to settle him back down. No more than five minutes later, when the nurse went back in to check on Dad, he's passed away. It didn't take long for the family to gather at his bedside and we stayed until the funeral home removed his body.

To the nurses and rest of the staff and volunteers at CRIH, thank you. For the kind words, the caring, for everything you did or tried to do for Dad.


The grandkids reacted accordingly for their age. Sis' oldest two, her son especially, took it very hard. I think Dad was the strong male figure in his life. The youngest of the girls was very mad at first, then worried about Grandma. Squirmy seemed to 'get' it, but not at the same time; he understands he'll never see Grandpa again and that makes him sad.

Wednesday afternoon saw us meeting at the funeral home to discuss disposition of the remains. Along with cremation/burial options, our agent also provided instructions and paperwork for filing for Survivor benefits, notices in the papers, and a raft of financial information. We also learned (maybe the other two knew this, but I didn't) a body that is to be cremated must be in a container. It could be a simple cardboard box, but the body cannot be placed 'uncontained' on the cremation platform - we had to pick a box to burn and, if we desired, a formal urn for Dad's remains.

The coffins ranged from a simple cardboard box (held together on the corners with zip-ties - something I found too funny) to a lovely silk-lined cherry wood creation. It has always struck me as a waste to pay a few thousand dollars for something that will be bunged into an oven an reduced to ash. The final decision was Mom's and while hubby and I thought Dad would see the humour in the cardboard one, Mom opted to 'upgrade' to the next model. Since Dad's ashes were to be scattered, none of us saw much point in an urn, though there were some beautiful models, damn near fine art quality.

Dad wanted his ashes scattered in the rose gardens with his parents and in-laws. The gardens my Grandparents were scattered in twenty-to-thirty years ago still (sorta) exist, but ashes can no longer be scattered on the ground. Seems that over time, the ashes are detrimental to the plants. Nowadays, each 'garden' area has a wall to place name plaques (and dedications) but the ashes themselves are contained in an underground bunker. And how do they get there? Somewhere in the each garden area, there's what looks like a bench or seat made of polished marble or stone - this is the cap for underground bunker. The cap stone is removed and a large PVC pipe transports the ashes into the bunker. Essentially, it's an outhouse for the dead. I swear, I could hear Dad laughing inside my head the second the observation was voiced.

At first, Mom was going to put all Dad's ashes in the gardens, but she's changed her mind. Some will go in the rose gardens on the mountain near their house and hubby is taking some to one of Dad's favourite fishing lakes. We can't put his ashes in the exact place his parents went, so I think Mom decided it would be okay to split him up. I don't think Dad would have objected too strongly had he known before he died.


At one of our family discussions last year, Dad said he didn't want a 'funeral' but, if we wanted it, a 'Celebration of Life' would be alright by him. At first, Mom wasn't going to do anything but then decided to have a CoL at the Legion Dad belonged to. It was beautiful. Dad belonged to the Colour Party and was lover and supporter of the Pipers. For his service, the Pipers donated their time and the number of Colour Party members was the largest it had been in a very long time. The Honour Guard was headed by a gentleman Dad was close friends with and who had also been diagnosed with colon cancer.

To all of the Legion members, Colour Party and Honour Guard, I thank you. You all paid him a great honour, tremendous respect and Dad would have loved the service. I know he was there in spirit.


I guess one of the advantages to knowing you're going to die, probably within a year, is having time to get things organised. Since he'd had the surgery in October 2010 - and survived the nearly complete renal failure in March 2011 - Dad accomplished a lot. Nearly all financial matters were either dealt with, or steps put into place so Mom wouldn't have much work to do, personal accounts made joint or closed outright, and a list of who to contact written out in his neat, precise bookkeeper handwriting. Wow.

There were, of course, a few issues. Mom had Dad's SIN number, but couldn't find the card. And where was the Firearms card and registration? They were eventually found, but not until after Mom had torn things apart upstairs. She's eventually found keys for two of the three safety deposit boxes so only one will have to be drilled out, but there are two keys to a deposit box she still has no idea regarding its location.

One of the first things Mom did was start going through 'the stuff'. Dad's biggest flaw (no one is without them) was he saved things - if it was useful (or potentially useful), if a copy should be kept, it it was just generally interesting or appealed to him, Dad kept it. At one time he had a collection of those little mini booze bottles airlines used to have. Well, there's also a banker's box labelled "Dad's Matchbook Collection" - all unused and in pristine condition. And papers - bank statements and household bills going back decades, notes from every Legion meeting and committee, and enough accounting ledger paper to run a business for years. Mom just rolled her eyes and started shredding. She's bound and determined her kids will not have to deal with a collection of 'stuff'.


For the most part, life has returned to normal. We'd all been expecting Dad's death, and in our heart-of-hearts knew Xmas 2011 was going to be his last, so while it hurt and was a shock, his death wasn't as painful and hard as it could have been. We're dealing, some days better than others. That we all miss him is a given and I doubt that will every truly go away.


Dad, I love you, always and forever. Rest in Peace, say hi to Grandma and Grandad and I hope the fishing is the best ever.

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