Tuesday, June 13, 2016
To an onlooker, we would have looked like a strange family “raising the roof” around a table in our country club’s restaurant. We were really laughing as my father mimed “pushing up daisies” while talking about his wishes surrounding his death. This was probably 15 years ago, but my father has always been very clear about the end of his life. Daddy practiced orthopedics for almost 42 years and only just retired a few weeks ago, so our discussions about death were always very clinical. We know what interventions he does and does not want, we know he wants to be cremated, we know that we’re not supposed to take any extraordinary measures. We talked about it so frequently that it became part of our family narrative – but it seemed so far away.
A few years ago, Daddy called a family meeting when I was in town visiting to talk about an upcoming back surgery that he had to have. He brought up the topic again – “just let nature take his course,” he said, and although we knew and respected his wishes, this strong, football player, orthopedic surgeon, father to six children still seemed invincible to us.
Now, the topic has come up again – and there are cracks of light seeping through his invincibility. He’s been battling with an unidentified neuropathy and pretty rapid decline for a few years, and now we’re starting to have to make those decisions about interventions. What we joked about 15 years ago doesn’t seem very funny anymore. It seems sad and hard and impossible. So, like my mom writes about in her blog, we are shifting our balance. We’re all coming to terms with changes this means for my father and our family. And through it all, we’re learning that sometimes the hardest decision to make is to respect someone else’s decisions.