Living with young onset Parkinson’s: A long day

Saturday 8 August 2020

See also previous
The call and The in-laws.

Clara’s Dad died
around 2:30 this morning.

Clara was on her way
to the hospital to take over the overnight vigil from her brother when her
father took his last breath. In a way she was relieved not to be there when it
actually happened. She had already spent much of the previous 48 hours with
him, witnessing his final lucid moments, and listening to his shallow breathing
as he peacefully slipped away.

His death certificate
will probably say something like pneumonia (ironic on the hottest day of the
year), but the truth is he simply died of old age. He was 94 and it was his
time to go. He’d had a good innings as they say. And, mostly thanks to Clara,
his last three years living across the road, had been comfortable ones. Clara had
visited him nearly every day in that period, and I had periodically taken him
for drives round the local area.

When my mother-in-law
died two years previously it was sudden, and I felt a surge of emotion at the
time. This time, the best word to describe how I feel is probably “content”.
I’m happy that this decent, mild-mannered, erudite gentleman of the previous
generation passed away gently and mostly painlessly, more or less at a time of his
choosing. His children had strived to give him the best possible last few
years, and were with him at the end. A fitting end to a worthy life as a college
administrator and lecturer in English, but also a husband, father
and loyal friend.

There’s not much you
can say to your wife when their remaining parent has just died. Throughout the
day, I tried to be there if she needed anything, but I also tried to give her
space. I avoided talking too much, lest I put my foot in it by saying something
unintentionally insensitive.

By 6pm, I suggested we
go out for dinner to a local pizza restaurant. Conversation inevitably turned
to funerals (how does that work with Covid-19?) and the flurry of other
activity that will take over the coming weeks and months, including the grim business
of sorting through the deceased’s possessions. Clara is, of course, also
starting the process of grieving.

By the time we got
home, we were both exhausted. It had certainly been a long day. A sad day, yes,
but also a day to reflect on a life well lived, and a family baton handed over
smoothly to the next generation. 

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