A long morning

At about 4:30 AM we received a call from the hospital that dad’s heartbeat had become erratic.

My mom went in immediately. I waited until 6, woke my sister, and brought us both in.

Around seven o’clock, a priest arrived from the Cathedral. He gave dad the Anointing of the Sick.

At 8:30 I went back to the house and returned with my girlfriend.

Noon saw a hospice nurse talk to. Unlike the neurologists and the intensive care nurses, who were consistently helpful, informative, caring, and nice, the hospice worker revealed neither competence, nor intelligence, nor honesty. Care which she described as “identical” turned out to be not at all identical (apparently in her mind, having a nurse check in every ten minutes and having a nurse check in every twenty-four hours comprise identical care). Likewise, her view on treatment of pain is too infuriating to write at this time.

Our meeting was interrupted, however, as dad’s heart rate became less stable. As we stood and sat around him, we told stories and spoke our love for him. While dad’s body failed, the “recovery” I have written about (I, II, III, IV, V) continued, and dad entered a persistent vegetative state. The space between breathes grew from twenty seconds, to thirty, to forty. (I counted.)

The clock reached one. It was two weeks to the minute since we spoke on the cell phone.

Then there was the last breath.

27 thoughts on “A long morning”

  1. Dan.
    There are no words that I can think of that don't seem meaningless in the face of your loss. But my thoughts are with you, and with your family.
    Your father was a great man, the world is a better place because of him.

  2. Sorry to hear about your loss. I hope your dad passed peacefully and that you and your family will be able to cope. Just remember to take it easy for awhile.

  3. I'm so sorry Dan. I keep my emotions buried pretty deep, but your news made tears flow. I'm sorry this has happened to such a wonderful family.

  4. It is difficult to put into words the range of emotions I've experienced through this. Initially concern, then hope, then consternation, then despair. Eventually fury.

    I feel great pain now, as an acquaintence of a great man lost and vicariously as a friend to his children.

    Ideas of faith and justice and fairness fall apart at times like this. For some, there is solace in family or faith. For others, solace in solitude and reflection. For others, it is best to revisit the fond memories.

    Your father was a kind, gentle man with a sharp mind, wit and zeal for life that refreshed those he met. I have told dozens of people who will never meet him the story of living on the beach and fighting wild dogs for his food and dealing with machete-wielding bus occupants.

    Once, I called John to speak with him about some trivial matter at the apartment. Initially, however, I told him I was calling for legal help. I told him I'd run a bus full of nuns and children off the road. He said, “Aaron, for a big enough retainer, I'll make you a hero.”

    He'll be missed greatly, but you know that very well.

  5. Dan,

    I am so truly sorry for your loss. It is difficult in ways I can somewhat understand. I was raised by my Grandfather who passed suddenly three years ago. Take some time to grieve and process. That is all I can hope to give you as advice.

    You will be in my prayers.

    Andrew Faltin

  6. Dan,
    You are in my prayers, I spent a whole month in 2005 watching a hospital ignore my Mother untill she was beyond hope, and then I had to deal with the incompetance of “the best hospice in town”. My heart goes out to you.

    When/if you feel like talking to a stanger who has been through something similar, and having someone to vent to. feel free to email. Venting and ranting may erase the pain and allow the good memories of your dad to push through to their rightful, primary place .

    God Bless


  7. Kevin,

    A year ago, I wouldn't have thought that I could write a comparative acute hospice review. It's not a subject anyone once first- or second- hand knowledge of. (I am not sure which would be worse.)

    In Sioux Falls, Avera's is superior to Sioux Valley / Sanford. Sanford is a larger institution which is set up for a greater variety of ailments, but Avera's had a large number of very caring nurses, right their, in the hospice ward. Sanford's on-site hospice is an adjunct of intensive care, though inconveniently far away from it, where (according to the hospice worker) you will be checked on once a day.

    While I know he would have wished his life to be a week or two shorter, my grandfather (very, very alert to the end) was well cared for by Avera's kind staff. And fortunately, we had an advocate among the RNs, and my father was able to pass well cared for. I cannot thank that man enough.

    I wished so much for my dad to wake up. But I think it is better to sleep than to be in a place like that for long, in pain, and know where it is.

    God bless you as well, and may he keep you loved and well,


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