As baby-boomers, we often face the realityof the death of our parents.
Here is a column I wrote that I hope you will enjoy.
It was a strange blessing to get the curt
e-mail from my dad announcing his pancreatic
cancer. I always expected a somber call from
the hospital telling of a sudden, massive
heart attack. This way, there was still time.
Maybe six months to a year, I thought.
That was overly optimistic. My dad was
even more positive. He figured after a little
chemo, some radiation and a quick operation,
he would be back on the golf course.
Soon after the announcement, the boys and
I made the 16-hour door-to-door trek from Boone
to his home near Phoenix, Arizona - my wife and
daughter went later.
He was as thin as a rail and had trouble keeping
food down - living essentially on cans of liquid
Our last conversations took place in two-hour
He would tire easily. The boys and I, with
notebook in hand, would delve into the past.
What did he really do during World War II
and the 28 years at Hughes Aircraft?
How did he meet mom and why her - not
all the others? What did he talk about with
his dad in the warm steam engine room
inside the shuttle on Hudson Bay?
God came up as he often does in last
conversations. Religion was a difficult subject
for dad. He wanted to be a Rabbi at one time.
At another, he claimed to be an Atheist. When,
through the years I brought up religion, dad
became angry and shut down communication.
He took a comparative religions course once in
college, he bellowed with authority. He knew
all about it. It was clearly not a matter
of facts, but emotions that formed his reaction.
Why the explosive emotions? Dad opened a
small portal in telling of his Bar Mitzvah.
The synagogue scheduled the celebration
for his Jewish rite of passage on a weekend
after he came of age. At the last minute,
his ceremony was bumped to a Wednesday
night in favor of the son of a wealthy family.
Dad was hurt and proclaimed that if his Bar
Mitzvah did not happen on that weekend,
it would not happen at all. It never happened.
I wondered if that was a small glimpse of a
series of wrongs - whether real or perceived -
that caused him to drop his strict orthodoxy,
marry a Catholic and cling to a religious
perspective that had little theological depth
other than "we ought to keep the Ten
In the last conversations, dad was willing to
talk of God. He was less combative, more
resigned. My son asked him who he thought
"He is the king of the Jews," replied dad
though I wondered what that meant to him
practically. My mind drifted to the
mid-seventies during the height of the
Jesus Movement. I summoned the
courage to wear a "Jesus" pin jome
from school. Dad never said anything.
Nevertheless, I felt embarrassed and
ashamed as if I had joined the Ku Klux Klan.
Mom considered herself a Catholic but stopped
going to church because she didn't like the
Pope's view on birth control. With dad, you
just never talked about religion.
It was this spiritual void that was instrumental
in my shifting
from my family's non-religion to a
radical Christian group that
cultivated almost cult-like devotion -
meetings every night of the week, all day
on Sunday, Bible seminars and activities
on every major holiday.
Our group lived together, worked together,
and spent all of our free time together.
For twelve years, this band of believers
became my family as I drifted away from
my natural one operating on the premise that
Jesus would approve of my giving absolute
priority to God's appointments over those
religiously lukewarm backsliders.
After all, did not Jesus say that those
who love father and mother more than
him are not worthy of him?
Back in Arizona, my son probed further.
"Do you believe Jesus died for your sins?"
he asked taking a cue from many Sunday
My dad paused thoughtfully. "Well yes,"
he said thoughtfully, "someone had to do that."
My son was pleased with the answer.
Nevertheless, I knew that last
conversations had to be more than right
words and proper answers.
One must deal with the emotional
barriers of the heart lest the doctrine of
reconciliation is merely a useless
phylactery worn upon a Pharisee's head.
"Dad," I said, "I know for years I was
involved in a religious group that took
me away from the family. I know that it
robbed us and took away what could
have been. I wanted to apologize for
my role in taking away from the family.
I'm sorry for causing us to drift apart."
Silence filled the room as this Veteran
WWII sailor took in the frank apology.
I had never in my 42 years seen him
show deep emotion yet a tear began
to run down his face.
"I was waiting for many years to hear that,"
he said with voice
cracking, "I wanted to hear something
like that for a long time."
I called dad a month later, the day after
he moved into hospice.
On his move day, he had said that he
was going to hospice to die yet
he seemed to be in relatively good condition.
He was not doing well on that day.
His breathing was labored and
he was having difficulty talking.
"Dad? How are you doing, dad?" I asked
"I have no idea," he heaved, "I have no idea."
"Do they have you drugged up?
Are you in pain?"
"No. No pain. No pain," he said and then,
"I have to say goodbye."
He hung up.
Two hours later, I received an email informing me
he was gone.
The conversations ceased.
This is the first of three articles by the
author chronicling the death of his father.
Comments are welcome at email@example.com
| Seniors, Boomers Care & Caregivers |
Nancy Reagan's Interview & Christopher Reeves' Web Site
Caring for loved one
A Japanese Caregiver's Story
Gail's column and web site
Gail R. Mitchell
Gail R. Mitchell
Gail R. Mitchell
Creating Ritual During The Holidays
Caring For A Loved One With Cancer
Senior Citizens of The Worlds
Facts On Aging
By Dr. Roger F. Landry
Seniors Scams & Frauds
Three Life Insurance Myths