Coping With Sick Parents
“DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”
Death Be Not Proud-by John Donne
Since no one has figured out how to email, Skype or receive blog posts from death it carries a certain weight of finality. There is a reason it is called the final goodbye. And maybe that finality and sense of loss is why it can be so hard to deal with sick parents. It is that underlying fear that one day mom and dad won’t be there.
I remember when I was in grade school there were a few kids who had lost parents. It didn’t make sense to me. At ten years old I couldn’t conceive of a time when my own would be gone. It just wasn’t real. In the years between then and my graduation from college there were a handful of losses. But it still seemed impossible that one day it could happen to me.
That changed a while back. When my father had a major heart attack and teetered on the brink it became very clear that things were different. Thankfully he survived, but it was close.
I won’t forget what it was like in the hospital. The beeps and whirs of the machines and the knowledge that a ventilator was helping dad to breathe. That was really the moment when I realized that he was truly human. It was rough because I really had come to realize how much I leaned upon him.
Maybe it wasn’t daily. I didn’t need him to tell me how to do my job, raise my kids or lead my life. I had already learned the basics from him. Still, there were always little situations that would come up. Most of the time I knew how I intended to handle them, but it didn’t mean that I didn’t want to talk it out.
It is kind of funny. Every day my children come to me and ask to watch as they show me what they have learned. What that moment in the hospital taught me was that I still like doing that too.
And now here we are several years later and I find myself in discussions with more friends about sick parents. Some of them have lost their mother or father, in some cases quite suddenly. And in others they find themselves in a position in which one or both of their parents have become quite frail and or ill.
Intellectually you know that these illnesses are a sign that their journey may not be much longer, there is only so much sunshine left in the day, but emotionally it is harder to get prepared for the twilight.
It is a bit disconcerting, these talks about parents with John and Kim or Mike and Michelle. It was only yesterday that they were telling me about the new guy/girl or the great job they found. Then it became stories about kids and family vacations. And one day the new topic entered, mom/dad are sick, they are dying, what are we going to do. How am I going to explain it to my kids. They were so strong….
In the distance I hear a school bell ringing, marking the end of school. There is a loud rumble accompanying it. It is the sound of a thousand kids running out the door and heading home. A door slams and you can hear the sound of someone saying “Mom, I am home.”