santa cruz wharf

28 May 2008

Indy. Indy. Indy.

Saturday we went to see Indiana Jones.
Sunday we watched the Indianapolis 500.

And yesterday in Indiana...
in a quiet respectful voice…the doctor said,
“Mr. Lynch, now it is time for you to decide where you want to die.”

Just like that...he gets to decide.
In the hospital...or someplace else.

Five weeks ago I agreed my girl should be the one to go to Indiana to care for her Great-Grandfather when he returned home from his heart attack. She is the oldest of the twelve “great-grands”. She has always been close to him. She had a window of time not claimed by other obligations and stepped up. The experience of care giving and helping him during this process will be with her for the rest of her life. Not many twenty-six year olds get to know their Great-grandparents…she had seven living Great-grandparents when she was born. She was able to know five of them. She is especially close to this one. Not many people of any age help prepare a loved one for death.

The past few weeks have been filled with stories of doctor visits, medical tests, drugs, shower scenes, arguments, laughter…the little details of life. (hmmmm…maybe I should post her updates.) At his last doctor’s office visit a couple weeks ago, my Grandfather reiterated his decision not to pursue angioplasty…and accepted the inevitable consequences. As my Grandfather was leaving…the doctor stood and told him, “Mr Lynch, I honor you”

A few days ago in the middle of the night, the nitro and the oxygen no longer alleviated his breathing a couple of really nice EMT’s came over to stabilize what they could and provide the 45 minute ride through the back roads of rural Indiana.

“Granddaughter?” They asked.
“no” shaking her head “GREAT-granddaughter”
(met with raised eyebrows)

“You live here?”

“No…I live in California…I’m just here for a few weeks”
(more eye brow action…turns out the EMT did a cross country motorcycle trip which included riding up the west coast from southern California to Alaska…)

Hospital Admission. Tests and Drugs. Palliative Care.

Without going into all the medical lingo of atria and ventricles...the best analogy we’ve been given is that of a six cylinder engine. Up until April his heart was running on all six cylinders. After the heart attacks he was running on three…maybe four. Since then the damage done by the heart attacks…plus the fact that his heart has been running the show for over 93 years…have left him running on a single cylinder. And the timing is off. And the muscle deterioration continues. The domino effect leads to failure of other organs and systems. But not his brain.

Still conscious. Still cognizant. Still fighting. Still living.

My Mama has gotten on a plane …well wrapped in denial.
Because yesterday…in a quiet respectful voice…the doctor said,
“Mr. Lynch, now it is time for you to decide where you want to die.”

My Grandfather answered the doctor by saying that yes…he knows his time is short. And in my mind…I can hear him...without being there I know EXACTLY his tone of voice.

The doctor said “go…die surrounded by your family in comfort.”

I wonder what it must be like. Fully aware your heart slowing down. Fighting to breathe and for the strength to say only a few words. Having decided not to have the procedure…do you wait for the symptoms to take over? Is there fear? Is there joy? Do you embrace it? Welcome it? Do you try and take control…or do you allow yourself to let go? Is it the ultimate acceptance?

And how do you watch him go through this...

your father, your grandfather, your great grandfather?


Sandee said...

I don't know the answer Katherine. Big hug honey. :)

Vinny "Bond" Marini said...

Katherine: Many do not get to decide on their own. I hope that I have that opportunity given to your Grand decide...I do not think anyone would chose a hospital...

Your daughter has strength inherited from her mom, who obviously got some from her Grand dad...

Mr. Lynch...I say a prayer that when the time comes, it comes without any pain...that you slide away in your sleep knowing you have done everything you could to ensure your children, grand children and great grandchildren remember you and aspire to be like you.

Desert Songbird said...

Most people do NOT get to choose. He's lived a wonderful life surrounded by people who love him. Kudos to him for living life (and leaving it) on his terms.

My father died of heart disease. I sat by his side and held his hand throughout the night. I watched his blood pressure drop during the night until 6:30 Christmas morning, they called the rest of the family in to say goodbye. My father slipped away very quietly, in stages, throughout the night and then finally breathed his last surrounded by love and loved ones. I held onto his hand until the end. I cherish that.

Mel said...


Ya know, I've sat here a bit teary eyed, amazed at the journey the kiddo signed up for, proud for her and for you and for him....
It's an honour and a privilege few would embrace with their whole being.

...I'm grateful for the physician who honoured the choice, who told the truth and who knows what's his and what's G-d's.

And my heart has an ache.
The heart's desire--torn in sad, wondrous anticipation for the journey he's embarked on and what that means for him, for you....for all who love him so well.....


I honour you.

Odat said...

Hugsss...and I hope he has no pain when it does happen....and he's so blessed to have your daughter and his family around him.

Traveling Bells said...

Peace to you and yours as this wonderful man transitions to his new life. May it be without pain...hugzzzzzz

Sue Wilkey said...

Wow. I clicked here from your "dharma initiative" comment at Mattress Police...didn't expect to end up crying. I am so sorry -that was beautifully written.

Jeff B said...

Having gone through something similar with my dad last July, this really hits home.

"How do you watch him go through this?" you ask. I wish I had a good answer for you. For me, I just hugged him as much as I could and told him how much I loved him.

I'm so glad you were able to go back to see hime a while back.

Peace to you my friend.

Maggie Moo said...

Katherine-I don't have any words that will make any of it better-just know that I'm thinking of you and your family.

katherine. said...

sandee: thanks my friend.

Bond: I hope I get to decide as well...thanks for the words and the prayer.

DS: just the other day I read a post (Mimi's?) about your Dad...and now to read this brings tears....sigh...i am glad you held his hand.

Mel: your girl is on my list you know...I love your description of his journey...

(and I smile at honoUr)

katherine. said...

odat: thanks...death makes me curious...

sandy b and dick: thanks. one of messages to him was "see ya on the other side"

sue: hello...glad you came by...usually I am far more of a smartass...come back next

Jeff: I remember from Gene's post when your Dad passsed...I am glad you were with him.

Mags: either...

Travis Cody said...

Echoing the doc...I honor your grandfather. What you describe is how one takes control, and leaves this place with dignity.

Mr Lynch, I thank you for this lesson Sir. Be at peace.

Mel said...

Heck, dearheart......the girl is on MY list... (thinkin' we're talkin' two different lists......LOL)

*thinkin' of you and yours*

Barb said...

Sending prayers and warm thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Katherine, I honor YOU and your daughter.

Many (((hugs))), thoughts and prayers.

Ginormous Boobs said...

Getting to choose it on your own and being surrounded by your family is the most precious gift of all. My grandfather's passing was the most beautiful, moving experience and I feel blessed that all the family got to spend the last 2 weeks of his life with him.