As you know in June, I lost my father and had some kind of bitter feelings towards people afterward. It has been a few months and I though I would reflect back on death in that post and in general.
Death and I’m Sorry
I still hate this term. I am still tired of hearing it when I tell people he’s passed. A good friend of mine lost her father last week. When I went to visit her, I had to think about what to say. I settled “I know what it’s like and I am here for you.” She knew my feelings towards the I’m sorry statement. When I saw her I had to catch myself because I almost said it. So if you are in the same situation, try “I know how it feels” instead of “I’m sorry.”
The process of death is interesting and not like what you expect. I learned a lot about it with my father. My mother died pretty suddenly so there was no waiting or anything. She was there one minute and dead the next. Dad lingered for almost a week before passing. His organs started shutting down on a Tuesday and he passed early Saturday morning. He slipped into a coma and died in his sleep.
Having watched this process up close really hardened my views on things having do with death. I’ve expressed them to some friends and been told I am being harsh and I need to lighten up.
End of Life
If you don’t know, when you organs shut down and you go into a coma, you basically are waiting for the body to die of starvation or dehydration. The body can’t really digest food in this state and in the case of my dad, his kidney’s failed first so an liquids weren’t really going to processed. My dad wasn’t a big guy to begin with. By the time, he’d passed he’d lost 15 lbs. Anyone who thinks that is the way to go is kidding themselves and they need to watch the process happen themselves. It was a cruel and horrible way to watch my father go.
The Bad Guy
The only hospital where my dad lived was a Catholic hospital. One thing you need to know about them, if you don’t already, is they don’t believe in assisted suicide or even helping the process along. Many times you here stories of nurses and family members injecting the dying with morphine “to ease pain” and opps, I guess that was too much and they passed. A friend of mine’s mother died like that when she had cancer. The nurse instructed the dad how to give morphine shots into the IV when she was going home instead of hospice. The nurse made it clear, that only give dose of morphine and not 3 times as much as it might kill her in that state. Her death was peacefully and surrounded by family.
When it became clear that my father was not going to recover, we were told by the hospital staff that since the hospital and hospice were run by Catholic Charities they couldn’t do anything like that nor would they condone it. Any opioid painkillers were administered by staff only and were pre-drawn by a 3rd nurse to prevent any accidental overdoses. My siblings and I were appalled that that choice was taken away from us. Knowing there was nothing we could, we resigned ourselves the vigil. At the time, I didn’t see it as him starving and dehydrating. I was too busy making sure he was comfortable and keeping my siblings together.
End of Life Options
In last 3 months, I’ve strengthen my belief in assisted suicide. I’ve also come to belief that options for letting terminal coma patients in the middle of organ shutdown need to be broader. Doctors and Catholic Charities need to reassess their views on this. Do no harm and suicide are not want is happening here. It is letting patients die in peace, free of pain. They tell me my father was not feeling any pain, I don’t necessarily believe them. The option to let him go peacefully was denied me and my siblings.
If you haven’t already, fill out a living will. It will give your family and doctors guidance on how you want to die. While it might not allow you to have your wishes fullfilled if you are in a Catholic Charity hospital or a state that doesn’t allow Assisted Suicide, it at least gives the family a clear cut path to go as far as your wishes are concerned. I did mine last week and let my family know what was in it. You need to do the same.