Memorial Day Memories

Our office was closed this past Monday for Memorial Day.  At home, I placed an American flag on our deck overlooking our gardens and cooked hotdogs for our local grandchildren on an ancient brick grill I rescued from invasive ivy at the edge of our patio.  We were surely among many who take a moment before their meal to remember those who gave their lives to make peace and plenty in this beautiful land possible and then enjoy a warm afternoon with family. Its one way of giving thanks. This federal holiday is set aside to remember and commemorate those who have fallen in service of our country.  But many also take that day to visit the grave sites or find some way to remember and honor other deceased family members.

Yesterday, I thought of my father, a veteran who served briefly during WWII.  He didn’t die in service, but died of bone cancer at age 75.  In spite of the legal directives we had prepared years prior, directing only comfort measures at the end of a terminal illness, I found him at one point in the hospital ICU virtually unconscious with seventeen tubes of one sort or another in his body.  This was not how he wanted to end his life.

I also remembered my mother who died last year, also in a hospital, after a failed heart surgery. She died alone without family present and was subjected to vigorous resuscitation measures contrary to her written advance directive for end of life treatment. This was not how she wanted to end her life.

Only a few days ago, my wife’s mother passed away in Chichester, England.  After a diagnosis of late stage lung cancer, she was provided with hospice, a hospital bed in her home, morphine for pain and “carers” through the day. Her daughter and son cared for her and sat at her bedside until her peaceful end.

Circumstances at the end of life vary greatly.  We make the best plans we can with the legal documents we have.  But the situation when those documents and directives are most needed often coincides with stress, confusion, mis-communication.  Advocate for your loved ones at the end of their lives.  Hold hands.  Don’t let “procedures” and “formalities” take over the humanity you must bring to bear at this sacred time.  Be there.



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