Its been a long week. Strike that, its been a long 3 years.
It was that long ago that my Dad was diagnosed with cancer.
He passed away this week on Teusday. I think. Everything is running together in my head without a lot of sense.
He was at the hospital, we had admitted him to the transitional care unit the previous Friday. He wasn't able to He was at the hospital, we had admitted him to the transitional care unit the previous Friday. He wasn't able to swallow his medications anymore. He would have rather died at home I know, but his mental capacity was too far gone for us to take care of him. He would get up in the middle of the night and fall down, and one night he even tore out his catheter. Ouch!
Its like for the past month we have been walking together down a very rocky, winding, tough road. Only he has been walking faster and faster, and growing more distant as he has moved farther down the path in front of me. This week he finally moved out of sight.
At least thats the kind of sappy shit that I try to think. In truth, I don't think there is much dignity in death. He went downhill quickly. It wasn't the cancer that killed him, but the treatment for it. The radiation he went through in order to kill the tumors in his head also killed him. In the last few weeks his brain atrophied rapidly.
He turned from a person into a breathing husk of a person. A vessel where something, someone, lived but didn't any longer. I suppose its sort of like watching a child grow up in reverse. He went from a thinking adult into a babbling infant unable to control his very bowel movements very quickly. The horror of it was that he understood what was happening to him. He felt an awful loss of his personal dignity. I could tell this hurt him more than the thought of dying itself. We couldn't really comfort him with this. So when it was time to change his diapers we just did it in a matter-of-fact way, without making a big deal out of it. It was all we could do.
Fortunately I guess, Dad's awareness of himself and what was happening to him faded very quickly. For the last week he sort of recognized our faces and voices, but not where he was or why. He started to refuse to eat or drink, and per his previous instructions we did not have a feeding tube or IV inserted. We gave him whatever he asked for, and did our best to see that he was as comfortable and pain-free as possible.
I could not help but wonder at the time what it would have been like to have someone like President Bush and the whole fucking Congress of the U.S. come in and try and force Dad to have a feeding tube against his will, like they did with Terry Schiavo. God those motherfuckers really raped her when they did that. It would have taken the last remaining shred of dignity and control over his life that my Dad had remaining to himself. Sometimes the right to die really is the right to live, the right to choose how you want to live, no matter for how short a time you have remaining to you.