Monday, May 12, 2008

Before the Grim Reaper Left for Mexico....

Ok, maybe I shouldn't joke about these things. I decided I had figured out the point to it all was just to experience it, what, three days ago? Now I'm ass deep in hospice decisions, obituaries from ex Mothers in Law, and the touchy, delicate question about what happens after, while death takes a holiday (or not) I will deal with the questions of how to pick up and manage the pieces of life that are left behind.

First, Leah Rose Enochs-Died May 9, 2008. Obit in the Oklahoman today. I won't go to your wake or service because I'm ex-family and a long time ago, but RIP. For a time I loved one of your surviving sons, had one of your 27 grandchildren and a few other items of note that are best left un-noted. I liked you a lot, always thought you did the best you could, which is all any of us can do. It seems lifetimes ago that you were a sometimes daily part of my life. I know we both left Oklahoma, and then we both came back. I remember once you drove me to visit a friend of yours that had race horses, and I appreciate that kindness. You made a wicked apple pie and pumpkin cookies. I'm sure you'll get a grand old send off as you were well loved.

Dieing in America is far too complicated, in some ways more complicated than living. My Uncle John has a terminal illness and has been sent for another bout of testing to determine if yes, he's dieing, if it's still the same terminal illness or something new, and then I am to decide what to do with all this information, as if, by the powers vested in me, I had any more choice in the matter than he does.

The decision to begin hospice care is mine and I thought it was made, however there was an unfortunate change over in personnel and apparently it was not made. Or, it has to be made again because, understandably, the new personnel can't take here say in such matters. So, more tests had to be ordered, more meetings and a new grand decision has to be made again so that no one sues medicare or the facility or anyone else.

Anyway, I didn't do another full on poll of family members because no one really wants to talk about it. But I did bring up the delicate or indelicate topic of what to do after the end comes. Uncle John didn't want to discuss that, figured the military would handle it, and I'm not going to tell him they have no room for bodies in the national cemetary.

That branch of the family is pretty much disbanded and I already know how to find the ones I CAN find-there are a few MIA's.

The only clear advice I got was "don't go ask John about it now, " (well, thanks Mom), so I am going to make an executive decision. Mom and Dad have made it clear they want no service, no burial (donated bodies) but in absence of clear direction to do that, I don't really comfortable doing nothing. So, by the authority vested in me, I am going to give Uncle John a legal burial at sea as befitting a career sailor. That seems both respectful and practical.

Now, this may seem premature, Mom was horrified that I even brought it up. But if I don't figure out something now, I will have every remaining elder asking "what are you going to DO" five seconds after he passes away. As this was the only loose end he left, I don't want it to mar his otherwise exemplary and orderly life. And the John I knew would probably get a huge kick out of it.

One of my many jobs was as an engraver. One of the custom jobs I did was engrave urns for the Greek Orthodox church, and sometimes those urns came already inhabited. I decided at that point in my life I would respect everyone as much as I possibly can, but I was not going to haul around any cremains, but I will ammend that slightly now and accompany my Uncle.

It is possible, I kid you not, to mail your dearly departed and have them tossed overboard, complete with picture, urn and GPS coordinates. And Uncle John would probably be fine with that, he liked the no fuss approach. But death rituals are for the living as well, and I'm just not that modern yet.

Maybe by the time it all comes to fruition I will regret these words and long for a postage stamp. But at this point, I cannot fathom doing that.


sukipoet said...

It sounds like you have a lot on your plate right now and that you are doing the right things. Setting up hospice care, planning for the funeral. It will be much easier on all concerned, I think, to have that thought out ahead of time.

My SIL has hospice care. As my brother and she have no insurance, their hospice care is free to them. They are wonderful to SIL. She was given 6 months to live but has outlived that 6 months. With no insurance she hasn't returned to the hospital for tests to determine just what is happening in there.

Dying sure is an odd and interesting part of life. I've had many friends die but never been this close by as i am now to SIL plus my 90 yo mom who must in some sense by close to dying.

Just being clear and present in the present moment is what I try to be. Many blessings to you, your uncle and all who are involved.

Debra Kay said...

It is very odd to say the least. And no one talks about it-when my Uncle Glen was dying I asked him about it once and he said the hardest part is that you aren't supposed to acknowledge that it's happening.

I'm also realizing that listening is harder than you might think. For instance, my Mom IS speaking to me when she says "I don't want drugs, I don't want to prolong, I don't want to know...." but she isn't saying what I want to hear.

I am glad I moved back before the dementia takes over, so that I have clear instructions (whether I agree or not) from clear minds.

I'm beginning to think raising kids prepares us in some way for letting our elders go-much of it feels the same.

Blessings to all of us as we journey through this world.

Mim said...

Blessings to you Deb - this is a tough time, but you are right in making decisions ahead of time. The most comforting thing to me was when a dear, dear friend died a few years ago, she had left specific instructions on what to do. She was cremated, and then a few months later we all gathered at a family house, drank lots of Beck beer, put Eric Clapton CD's on and told funny (and sad) stories. Then her ashes were put in the ocean. It was SO comforting to know that we were doing what she wanted and what she knew we all needed.

When my sister in law died, she had left strict instructions that she wanted a proper FUNERAL - with a funeral home, and mass, and all the bells and whistles. It was much less fun...but we did it!

You take care of yourself - I've been worrying with all the tornadoes.

Forever Young said...

and i thought my week's been bad, but not about death, rather about coping with what life throws at me!

watching my parents dying long protracted deaths at the ages of 57 and 59 was i was only in my early 30's....but somehow, having to deal with this oneself when you are getting on in years must be even tougher, less resilience and less energy. your mom is a trial but somewhere deep down inside her i know you SEE her, you really do (and i want to believe that she knows it and SEES you too.)blessings of love to you all.