Friday, January 20, 2012

The Fragility of Health

My mom is in Atlanta this week helping attend her youngest sister, who is hospitalized with some significant health issues.  Her brother and sister are also down there, which signals how difficult things are there right now.  It's been a long series of travails for my aunt and I am so very happy we got to spend some extended time with her in Cape May Point this past summer.

Death in my family has (save the sad exception of my cousin) always been the wasting, suffering kind.  Cancer, heart disease, post operative issues.  Never particularly sudden.  Always an ordeal for every one involved.  The patient, the kids, the spouse, the grandkids, the friends, all with equal measures of sadness long before the funeral.

A few years ago, with my father in the hospital for a heart procedure, I worried in this space that my life was headed into that zone where adult kids spend more and more time at hospitals talking to doctors about their parents then they do at their own doctor's office.  Happily, that has not turned out to be the case and the hospital visits have been notably few in the intervening four plus years.

I had a pretty significant health scare last year that I dealt with and ultimately turned out to be more of a reminder of my mortality than an emergency. As I sat in the doctor's office the day of the procedure, heart racing and not sure what would come next, I reflected on how few times I had been the patient myself and that It was all so de-humanizing and difficult for someone who prefers to be the guy in control.

So now, up here in Philadelphia, where I can't control a single thing about the situation, my thoughts are drawn to my aunt and her care-givers. How much there is to worry about for them. How difficult it must be to relax and let things happen.  things are a lot better then they were a week ago in Atlanta, she's in a better hospital, surrounded by family who can take shifts to be at her side.  The care much more coordinated and the care-givers are able to give each other a break here and there.

We're all going to die eventually, I get that, but we also want it to be on our own terms. Like the athlete who gets to retire amidst the cheers of victory rather than the silence of the off-season, we want to fight valiantly to the end, to do the things on our 'Bucket List,' to see our children become successes and to hold our grandchildren until they are too old for all that. I know we all don't get that chance, and that's a good reminder to leave work a little early to get to the game or to spend a little extra time reading that last book before bed.

I am hopeful for my aunt that she will weather this latest storm and enjoy the company of her grandson and the rest of the family at home very soon. And I thank you all for your thoughts and notes of support.  It's really appreciated!


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