A Personal Care Duty

Trimming my ears periodically at 68. The many things we don’t have to do when younger.

This morning, doing same, I was suddenly mentally back to spring, 1998 in Winnipeg General Hospital–where both my Dad and I once worked–trimming his ears as he lay in bed reading the newspaper and dying of cancer. I gave him, too, a hand-exercise-ball to help ‘keep his grip’.

I helped him to the bathroom, which he was terribly embarrassed about, saying he never wanted me to “see him like this”. I told him it was ok, that he had taken care of me in much the same way from birth to age 3. Payback. It all evens out.

I had come when I could–near spring break when I could get some extra time off. It turned out to be fortuitous timing.

He had badly wanted to go home, but one of his hospital co-worker-friends of old had come in and convinced him otherwise; that he would be more likely be going to a terminal care facility. That news took the spirit right out of him after a valiant 7-month struggle.

When my mother and I left him afterward to go for lunch, she started having dread premonitions and we cut our lunch short and headed back to the hospital. One of the workers met and intercepted us when we entered the ward. He had died suddenly and quickly while we were gone: all this transpiring in an hour or less. They had tried a resuscitation, but it was too late. He went quickly, they said.

My mother was overwhelmed by how peaceful he looked in the bed when we were inside his room. For myself, I thought of how all our plans and efforts had turned to naught. He was at peace now. No pain; no suffering. He was at rest. I was glad for that and immediately turned to taking care of and looking out for my mother in the unreal weeks that followed.

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