Saturday, March 21, 2009

Historical Stuff- Walking

Papa loved to go walking. The first two years he lived with us we occasionally accompanied him, but often he made it quite clear that he wanted to go alone. Though we were sometimes reluctant, we also did not wish to overdo the supervision. He expressed a desire for independence and we gave it to him. Sometimes his walking ventures successfully ended back home, but many times they didn't.

He was always very proud of himself when he safely found his way home. And when he realized he was hopelessly lost, he did not hesitate to ask for assistance. During the summertime, people were often out in their yards so he would stop and tell them he was lost. Sometimes they were able to query him sufficiently to get a last name and then check the telephone directory. When the phone call came, we would hustle off to retrieve him. At other times Papa was unable to accurately communicate his name and eventually we would hear from the police, either to pick him up at the station or to give an address for them to deliver him.

I'll never forget the day I discovered him gone for much longer than expected and knew I'd receive a phone call sooner or later. When it came, the police indicated where they were with him and it was a short distance up the hill from our house so I suggested I would come get him. The scene as I approached the address nearly had me double over in laughter. Three policemen stood encircling Papa on the driveway of a home while two police cruisers sat precariously on the street. Apparently he had gone to the door of this home and the woman inside was afraid so called the police. He could not be more mild mannered and to see him being treated like a criminal was rather humorous.

As getting lost became more the norm we knew his independent walking trips were history. At first I would allow him to leave independently and then follow half a block behind so he still thought he was walking alone and I had the security of knowing where he was. When he became obviously lost I would approach him and offer to direct him home. Sometimes he expressed awe that I had found him.

This strategy worked for a while but when he took a turn down the alley to collect rocks and disappeared before I caught up, I knew we had to insist on accompanying him. Once again I was reminded that my time was not my own because Papa often wanted to go for walks, several times a day. He was frequently bored and walking helped to occupy time. I slowly learned not to begrudge these interruptions to my day because the walks were good for my health too.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Closed but not Forgotten

The funeral was a time of celebrating Papa's life. Yes there were a few tears, but mostly we enjoyed remembering all the wonderful bits of heritage we enjoy because of his life.

He often commented that although several of his brothers were pastors, he had Jesus' first occupation, that of a carpenter. We chose to display some of the toolboxes he had made and also the tools he used to build houses. One of the toolboxes became the container for a floral arrangement which crowned the casket.

Some of the heritage we enjoy:
- his quiet, one liner humorous comments...a trait that is carried forward by his son and his grandsons. His favorite color was 'skyblue pink'.
- his life of integrity
- his dedication to his Lord, his family, and his church

The day following the funeral, Stan and his sister, Lois, flew to Abbotsford along with Papa for the interment. He, well at least his body, is now 'at home' next to his dear wife. We believe his spirit is also 'at home' with his Lord and Saviour, Jesus. He commented on several occasions with considerable emotion that he longed to go to heaven and the first thing he wanted to do was to see Jesus, who gave His life so that we could enjoy heaven with Him.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Papa is 'home' and knows it.

Stan called the Hospice at 8 a.m. He was told Papa had been peaceful all night. Nothing had changed since yesterday.

As we prepared to pick up Stan's sister from the airport, the phone rang. I expected a call from my father, who calls every Saturday morning around 8:30, but it was the Hospice telling us Papa had just died.

We do not grieve as those who have no hope, for we know that we shall see him again.

He was very ready to go to heaven and often spoke of seeing his parents and his brother Emil.

We rejoice that he is now 'home' and knows it.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Papa Lingers

Many times over the past few weeks Papa has reached his arms heavenward and looked up. We have wondered if he had a portal to heaven. Does he see 'the other side' and is reaching towards his loved ones there? Are they encouraging him to 'come'?
We have encouraged him to go to them, yet he lingers.

We wonder why he lingers. Are there relationships that he needs closure on? His daughter arrives tomorrow and some of his caregivers of the past few years will stop in to see him today.

Fortunately he has been relatively comfortable the past few days with minimal medication. Sometimes he has had very positive expressions on his face and other times his forhead furrows in agony. How we long for him to be released from his prison.

Recommended Books

The following are recommended books that have encouraged us during our Life with Papa:

Precious Lord, Take My Hand by Shelly Beach

Treasures of Darkness by Helen Lescheid

The first book was given to me, twice, by two different people familiar with our journey.

The second was written by a friend of mine who has endured far more than I have and has found 'treasures' through it all.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Adrenaline Fix

Since Papa was placed into the Hospice, I have begun to unwind. I'm exhausted and actually sleeping better than I have in a long long while. My ears are no longer on guard for sounds of movement. Apparently I'm beginning to relax enough to actually sleep.

It seems that perhaps I've been running on adrenaline for the past 2 or so years. Papa's doctor was in to see him last night and I casually made comment that I thought perhaps I'd been functioning on an adrenaline high for a while. He wisely cautioned it could easily take me 6 - 8 weeks to come down to 'normal' again.

However, it's not over yet. We continue to await Papa's final departure. He has settled now, is on some pain medication and some sedation, drifts in and out of semi coma state, and occasionally seems to recognize what is being said.

Today he told me rather sharply, "Go!" when I was apparently irritating him with my attempts to give comfort during a spell of pain and discomfort. His granddaughter, Karyn, was in the room so I came home.

I'm finding it difficult to focus on any 'work' that needs doing around the house, and there is lots of it. It's too early to go to bed. Perhaps I'll try a few rounds of computer golf.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Big, Empty House

This morning before heading off to the Hospice I found myself wandering somewhat aimlessly through the house, feeling rather disoriented. What did I need to take along and where is it?

This is the first time in nearly 40 years that it's just Stan and I living in our home, and it's a large house. Over the years we have either had children or boarders or both sharing our home. And, most recently, Papa has shared it.

It will take some time to adjust but I've been assured it won't take long. We look forward to renewing our relationship. Stan looks forward to having me travel with him on out of town contract work. I suspect housework will be minimal compared to what I am accustomed to..yeah!!!

Tsunamis and Trains

This past week has felt as if we were hit by a train and dragged on along the track. I've commented to friends that we feel as if we were engulfed by a Tsunami and as we gulped and gasped for air, realizing we hadn't actually drowned, another wave covered us.

Papa very suddenly became significantly debilitated. The ability of his legs to support his body comes and goes. One evening he attempted to get out of bed but his legs did not cooperate. It was 3 a.m. I was ‘sleeping’ in the room across the hall. His door was closed. My door was open a crack and when turning to find a more comfortable position I noticed the light on in his room but I heard no sounds. We’ve been down this road before so I just waited for either a sound that would summon me or his light to go off. I did not have to wait long for the summons. The scene that greeted me was the beginning of yet another major wave to crash over our lives.

He was slumped on the floor beside his bed, half kneeling and attempting to pull himself up. Trying to assist this process I quickly discovered my complete inability to succeed, so quickly ran to the main floor and pounded the floor with my foot to alert Stan, who was sleeping in the basement. He came and we wrestled with Papa for several minutes to get him off the floor. Absolutely not happening. We tried getting him to lie on the floor but even that did not work. What to do?

I called Home Care for advice. No answer. (I found out the following day something had malfunctioned in their phone system because I should have been able to connect to a nurse). I called Health Link and she quickly put me through to EMS. They graciously came and assisted us in getting Papa back into bed but it was a struggle even for two of them and Stan working together. During the process it was very evident that he was in significant pain, somewhere.

EMS finally left by 4:30 a.m. and encouraged us not to hesitate calling again, even in 5 minutes, should we need their further assistance. They also suggested we put some chairs around Papa’s bed to prevent him from getting out.

We put 2 chairs on the side nearest where he was lying and one on the far side of his bed. Where there’s a will there’s a guessed it, he found the open end of the bed and attempted yet again to ‘escape’. This time I came upon the scene before he managed to get his body off the bed; his legs were dangling over the end. Try as I might, I could not get him back into bed so I quickly summoned Stan yet again and we managed to get him back up, in and covered, encouraging him to sleep more. It was now 5:30 a.m.

Stan and I then sat on my bed for a few minutes looking and feeling a bit shell shocked. “We haven’t been down this road before,” he said. Indeed, it was all new, strange, and quite uncomfortable.

It was now time for Stan to prepare for work. I suggested he call in sick, but he had no way of contacting management before the store opened and he felt he needed to go. He is a man of integrity, a trait he learned from Papa.

I called Home Care as soon as I knew our nurse would be there to communicate the events of the previous night. She had been to our home two days earlier for an assessment and had asked us to get Papa’s doctor to designate him as palliative in order to put more aides into place for us. That had been accomplished and was a very necessary link to speed along our ability to give better care in our home. This nurse connected with the palliative care department of Home Care and they came later that day for another major assessment of our situation and to transition from one department to the other within Home Care. They strongly urged us to place Papa into a Hospice.

We have been very resistant to placing him anywhere although many friends and family have encouraged us to do so over the years he has been with us. Comments like, “This is so hard on you.” and “Wouldn’t it be better for him to be in a home with other people like himself?” were not uncommon. We felt it to be ‘the right and God honouring thing to do to care for him in our home until his death’. Indeed, I felt called of God to fulfill this commitment and determined to do so as best I could with His help. We also had lots of good help from Home Care and friends.

The Home Care nurses were very wise in determining that I had come to the end of my ability to continue doing this act of mercy. During the middle of the week I had received a report of xrays taken a few weeks earlier which indicated osteoarthritis was chewing me up and ready to spit me out, out of commission. Care for Papa had become suddenly very physical and I simply could no longer wrestle with him through the many duties of the day. Sleeping had also become difficult for me because of pain so I was and am, exhausted. The nurses knew this.

We agreed to place Papa into a Hospice and were told it could take 2 or 3 days till a bed was found. This was Friday afternoon. Meanwhile they would be a phone call away if we needed anything and would check in during the weekend.

Saturday morning the palliative nurse called to say there was a bed for us if we wanted it, at Agape Hospice, which had been our first choice because of closer proximity to our home. We agreed and the nurse arranged for a non emergent ambulance transfer early Saturday afternoon.

I scuttled around the house gathering things to take along and reeling from the speed with which this was all happening. It was just shy of nauseating. Then too there was the emotional stuff to process. This was not ending as we had hoped and prayed for. I still had to tell Papa that we were taking him somewhere that could care for him better. That was extremely hard and I sort of wimped out by calling Stan and asking him to tell Papa over the phone, which he graciously did. There is no way of knowing how much was comprehended. I continued to assure him that we would still be there and he would be cared for much better. I also spent a few minutes in private releasing my pent up emotions through God’s provision of tears. Our daughter, Melanie, agreed to accompany Papa in the ambulance.

As I write this, he has been in the Hospice now for 2+ days and it has not gone very well. He has been extremely pain distressed while they experiment with finding something that will give relief. The one thing that was an experience near to heaven for him was a long hot bath in a tub that he did not have to climb into and out of. I was tempted to ask if I too could have a long hot soak for stress relief.

The Hospice staff are wonderful and doing all they can to assist Papa and family through this next phase of life/death. Meanwhile, we are still helping provide 24 hour bedside companionship with the help of our former home care aides, who have become even dearer friends, and other friends too. Last night was the first night in many months that Stan and I were able to sleep well.