Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Be forewarned. This post was hard for me to write. In turn, this post may be hard for you to read.

Before my dad passed away, he "crashed" the night before. He was already in the hospital. We received "the phone call" and rushed to his bedside.

So many of us were there. We circled around his bed and prayed.

He finally woke up and looked around. He wondered why we were all there praying. Why all the hubbub? After all, in his mind he had only fallen off to sleep.

I never noticed it, but my wife says tears started streaming down his cheeks; the reason for our presence finally dawned on him.

He realized now that he had almost died.

The doctors placed an oxygen mask over his face; this was a change from the thin, plastic oxygen tube that was customarily under his nose.

As the night went on, his breathing grew laborious. He developed an unquenchable thirst and wanted to remove the mask to drink some water. The nurse insisted that he didn't do that.

The staff would only allow him quick sips of water, but forbade any prolonged removal of his mask. In fact, they would only push the mask to the side or pull it up in order to insert a straw into his mouth from time to time.

He complained more and more about that mask.

Finally, I approached a nurse in private.

"My dad wants to take his mask off. Why can't he?" I accosted. He's really uncomfortable with it on".

"If your dad takes that mask off, he will die," the nurse tersely replied. Then, she walked away.

What can one say to that?

So, I found myself doing all I could to make sure that mask stayed on his face. But knowing that the mask was a discomfort, I tried to compensate by asking him for anything he might need.

The next day, my dad's situation grew worse. Breathing seemed like it was more trouble than it was worth for him. And he didn't seem coherent any more.

At that point, he was probably already gone. Maybe not. But I just couldn't get through to him any more. He wouldn't speak clearly. He couldn't write anything that made sense. He only motioned and pointed, yet he never seemed to point at anything in particular.

Though oddly, he never stopped fidgeting with his mask.

I sat with him for a while. The I decided I'd go home for just a bit and come back later that on to visit with him. I turned and waved "bye" to him in the doorway. He waved back.

That seemed to be the only coherent connection I made with him that day.

After I left-- when no one was looking-- he took off his mask.


Though this was hard for me to write, today will not be a sad day for me. So please, try not to be sad yourself if you actually read through all of that.

I can't help thinking of my dad after hearing that Eluana Englaro, has passed away-- the poor lady in Italy who was preserved in a vegetative state for 17 years.

Sad news, yes, but I'm sure her father can start seeking closure now.
And Eluana can finally rest in peace.

While the Italian government was attempting to pass an emergency measure to block the euthanasia of Eluana, doctors had already removed her feeding tube and administered medicines to keep her comfortable as she passed away.

People are calling her death a murder despite the fact that her vegetative state seemed permanent.

So, was Eluana murdered? Was her death a "tragic execution"?

I think murder and execution are strong words.

I'd rather use the words cruel and inhumane.

But that's for wanting to keep her alive until she passed "naturally".

And now I think back to my dad. If I had the power to keep him alive, I certainly would have done so. If I could have kept that mask on his face, I would have.

But that isn't what my dad wanted.

Today, I respect that.
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