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Today, my sons- Andrew, Eric and David spent the most precious time with Grandpa. He acknowledged our presence by slightly tightening his grasp of each of our hand, fluttering or even opening his eyes, and actually raising an arm; overrun with needles and tubes connected to various forms of life support.
Papa and David hanging on to each other
sharing each other's life energy click here.
These minute movements were much too precious to assign clinical value. Each grandson uttering the words, " Grandpa, we love you;" his response to each, a slight tightening of a grip. I cannot tell you how intimate and loving that felt.
So how does one say goodbye forever to a loved one?
Every other day or so, the doctor meets with us and gives us a report of Papa's clinical status, each time posing the question of how long and how much life saving, life support do we want to continue. The question is extremely offensive to me, hurtful and just plain cold hearted, albeit necessary. As a daughter who loves her father very much, who has received so much love ,especially the boys, to ask this question now, after only days since his hospital admission is premature. It hurts me and it feels wrong to keep asking the question of life support, when he is not even comatose. He is still very much with us, interacting with us, fighting for his life, indicating that he wants to live.
Papa and Gabby Concepcion during Mama's wake. He was conversant and sociable. The next day, during Mama's internment, he decompensated so badly that he was taken to the ER.
This question will be asked of those of us who still have elderly parents. It is inevitable. It is a " standard" question when the patient is an elderly. No exception. And there will be those who will have the answer, clear as a bell, and those who will not, and the answer will differ from person to person. This variation is essentially not only due to individual differences but also differences in our relationship with the ill and the dying. Each is unique, even if we belong to the same family.
Papa is an unusual "elderly". He was still writing his memoirs last Fall, walking, standing erect when reminded, walked with a cane, not wheelchair, expressed his opinion about Philippine and US politics. No, I do not believe Papa is "wanting to go with Mama". Staying alive is inherent in human beings, it's instinctive, whereas, "wanting to go with Mama" is a subjective interepretation. Perhaps if the question is raised again down the road, the answer will be different. Not now. Not after only days of being in ICU. Sometimes we are in too much hurry to end our pain that we fail to see opportunities. Opportunity to serve the ill , to say things we had not, to reciprocate by advocating for what all modern science has to offer.
Still, saying goodbye is a process that must begin now. How does one say goodbye to someone they love? Someone who has given you so much, to whom you have not given enough. How does one say goodbye forever? When I and the boys board the plane tomorrow, we may never see him alive again, feel his warm hands, hear his voice, see his eyes looking at me, as if saying, " I don't want to go yet."
Each death is different- slow, fast, instant...I have dealt with other people's loss, as a friend, as a mental health professional, but never my own loved one. Now, my turn has come and I am at a loss.
Comment by ningrogg on 2008-03-16 09:43:41
Ning, I have been following your blog, and as much as I wanted to come up with something to say, I just sat there and the words wouldn't form. Until this evening when I gazed at your question, "So how does one say goodbye to a loved one? " It took me back to September, 1991 when I was at the bedside of my Mother in the hospital and all that could be done was and no more would do much good. I had the same question and somehow, the only response that I came to was that you do not say "goodbye", but you say instead "goodnight".
Hard enough as it is that your Mother passed, and now your father is so ill too. It is said, that no one is truly 'gone' who have left behind memories with many others. The longer we live, the more lives we touch where we hardly even realize in even small ways. As such, that is another memory deposited with someone. Your parents had a long and productive life, and thus they have also left behind many memories with others including your loving family. We grieve a loss, but should celebrate their lives, and that they are now in their just reward where there is no more pain nor death. Look to the family and see how successful your parents were. Look to what your parents were to accomplish despite all the bad things that happened around them. They sustained themselves in each other and in the children they brought into life. So it is, that it is not "goodbye", but goodnight.
With fond regards,