Aging Parents and Lent

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During this holy season of Lent, I am with my folks as they are in separate hospital rooms.

My folks have been married since 1981.  They have had a lot of fun over the years, as they have danced together, traveled together, and grown old together.

My stepmom is now 90.  She has been my mom longer than my mom was able to be my mom.  She has congestive heart failure, and has been in the hospital repeatedly over the past year.  The routine is the same.  She has difficulty breathing, goes to the hospital.  Takes lots of fluid medicine.  Gets better.  Goes home.  A few weeks later, she is back in.  She’s kind of tired of living, especially since she has always been a person who works hard, enjoys life, and has fun when she can.  Now that she can’t do those things, it is frustrating for her.  

And Dad.  Dad is now 95.  He also has congestive heart failure.  In addition, he has what appears to be a slow acting form of leukemia, along with anemia, possible prostate cancer.  And for the past few days he has had a catheter along with him as his friend.  It does not slow him down.  Having been an independent spirit all his life, he continues that spirit even when the hospital would like for him to conform to their rules, especially with respect to his safety.  

He has always been this way.  Living life on the edge of safety.  Putting up high scaffolds to stand on so that we can work on guttering.  And then when I dismantle it, I find that we have been standing on a wooden structure that is secured to the front porch railing with two large zip ties.  

In the hospital, he, along with many others, has an alarm on the bed that will alert the staff if a patient gets up in an unauthorized fashion.  Our dad pushes the limits of this unauthorizedness.  We had left for just a bit.  Bed alarm was set.  Rails were up on the sides.  When we came back, Dad was in a different room.  Close to the nurses’ station.  Apparently he needed to use the restroom.  So he was almost over the rails when the nurses got there, responding to the bed alarm.  Therefore the room change.  

My spouse says that our Dad is probably not going to die like any other 95 year old man.  I think she is right.  When you are a rule breaker, live life on the edge, and have little use for what you might consider to be useless regulations, then you are going to live life on your own terms!  And he does.  

Life has become more difficult for them over the past several years.  Between the diseases of the body and the mind, along with the accompanying pain and worry, their words have become less filtered, their actions less restrained.  They have both lived much longer than they ever anticipated.  They are both ready to go home, but their bodies have not let them go yet. And their minds are still wrestling with the concept that if they let this life go, what would happen to the other person.  It is a hard place they are in.  And it is hard as their family to see them in this place.  There will be a time when either the decision is made for them as their bodies surrender, or they make the intentional decision to receive only care that makes them comfortable until their bodies rest in a peaceful place.    

I don’t  write all this to have someone feel sorry for my folks nor for us as their family.  Even in just this one hospital where I write, there are perhaps a hundred patients and families who are in this same place in life.  I write this because today I am spending a little time in gratitude for my folks.  I know there will come a day, likely much sooner than I expect, when they will not be with us.  

During this season of Lent, as the Christian faith considers all kinds of reflections about the nature of life, of death, and of living life more fully, I note for myself and whoever else might listen, the appreciation of having family who push life to the limits.  And, in doing so, they bless and strengthen so many more lives.  Thanks be to God!

 

~ by revpaulcalkin on March 10, 2019.

5 Responses to “Aging Parents and Lent”

  1. I liked your blog very much. Shirley and I have had decisions about our life’s as we get older, some your comments about your parents fit right in our thoughts. Prayers for you and your family.

  2. I love this Paul. I have seen the situation that you and your family are in all too many times. Actually I should say I have been blessed to see this many times. Nothing like seeing a true loving family and I reminder of what is important in life. Thank you!

  3. Pastor Paul,

    I truly enjoyed your ponderings over your parents and yes, I believe many of us are in the same boat, or close to it. Your reflections of those who push past the limits brought a little chuckle to my day! Thank you kind sir!

  4. Just wanted you to know we will be praying for you all!! Miss you and Love you and Jenny both!! Iva Lemme

  5. Hey Paul, More prayers coming your way last night from Mosaic’s Space for Grace service & from the choir. I just want you to know I’m thinking about you & all your family.

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