Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Handful of Days

My poor old uncle, aged 83, long burdened by Parkinson's Disease and cancer, and who recently had a nasty fall that rendered him unconscious for a few days, revived sufficiently yesterday to tell his wife and doctors "No more".
No more meds, no more food. He has decided to turn his face to the wall and slip away. He has had enough, and I can't say I blame him. Despite everything, his intelligence has remained intact, and until very recently there were traces of his habitual dry wit and self -deprecating humour. An active and fit man, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of miltary history, his illness has mostly entailed an agonising curtailment of his former pleasures. His wife of over fifty-five years, herself a cancer survivor, was still (quite voluntarily) pushing him round in a wheelchair until a few weeks ago, but her increasing frailty would have soon made a nursing home an inevitability for him. He knew that, whatever, he was not destined to return to sleep in his own bed. He is currently in a side room of a small local hospital, tended and as comfortable as he can be. According to my mother (his sister) the nursing and pastoral care is exemplary and it is close enough for family visiting to be easy. But we are talking of less than a handful of days here. A gentle slide into the void, tenderly held in the arms of Morpheus, the quiet extinguishing of his light.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. May he rest in peace.


Anonymous said...

How moving - I admire your uncle. Iworked in palliative care for five or so years in cancer care and I only hope when my time comes that I am able to do what your uncle has decided to do.

I am glad he has a good nursing team around him too - that is so important - not to mention a good, pragmatic doctor. When I was a manager in residential care in the 80s I was on duty one evening when a 96 year old with dementia developed a nasty chest infection that turned into pnuemonia. The GP came out and said 'I can fill him full of antiboitics and send him off to hospital and he'll get better - or we can call his family and let them sit by the bed and let him go with a bit of dignity - what do you think?' We opted for the latter and he died three or so hours later - like Shakespeare on his birthday! Not a bad end.

I am reminded of the final words of the Office of Compline: "The Almighty Lord grant us a quiet night and a good end." I hope this for your uncle.


Hypatia said...

Thank you for your kind words LondonLad. After sinking into deep unconsciousness, my uncle passed away early this morning surrounded by his closest family. Thank goodness for medical staff who know when 'calling it a day' is an act of compassion and not a reproach to their skills.


Anonymous said...


I am sorry to hear this – but glad as well! I am sure you know what I mean when I say this!


Anonymous said...