SuperDaughter's dad died early Thursday morning.
Died while she was on a plane back home to Chicago to see him because a doctor had pronounced a "3-5 days" sentence. It was only 4 weeks ago that they found out he had cancer and gave him a prognosis of 3 months without chemo and maybe 6 months with. He did want the chemo, but they had to discontinue it because his body simply couldn't handle it. All those weeks of not eating and not taking enough liquids had weakened his system way too much.
There's a certain level of denial that always sets in when someone is really ill...especially when things progress so very quickly. SuperDaughter is probably wondering if she should have been on a plane one day earlier. Luckily she can feel blessed that she had actually only been home for one week after spending about 10 days in Chicago helping her mom deal with things, including paperwork and simply getting him to and from his doctor appointments.
In future I think (I hope) SuperDaughter will look back and feel that she did get to spend time near the end being with and taking care of her father.
People aren't always that lucky...
When my S.O.'s mother died about a year ago we said it was surprising, but not shocking. She had been fighting cancer off and on for almost two decades. This time we knew it was the last time. It was everywhere, and they weren't doing any real treatments anymore to get rid of it. She was still mobile, with a walker, and still very alert. We had been to see her some months before. And with Christmas approaching we were planning a trip to see her again.
The thing is that we expected there to be some long drawn-out deathbed scene. Sort of like "Terms of Endearment." Expected to get the call that she was failing and to be able to get there.
Instead she got out of bed to get some water in the middle of the night and fell, hitting her head. They think she may have had a stroke. She was gone within 24 hours. She actually died on the day my S.O. was supposed to start a new job. And she died 2 weeks before we were planning to be there for a week to visit.
Similarly, my grandmother was bedridden for the last 10 years of her life, but in a way seemed like she would live forever like that. I visited her often, often twice a year because I got to get to the east coast for business quite regularly. One February I was in Europe on business. Due to an airline strike, my final flights home got delayed and re-routed. They wanted me to stay in Budapest another day, but I was determined to get as far West as I could, even if I had to spend the night somewhere along the way, so that I would get home as early as possible the next day. They ended up flying me as far as JFK that night.
My grandmother lived about 10 minutes from JFK. Normally I would have spent the night at her house if I was in town for a layover like that, but I arrived at almost 11PM. I knew that 10PM was lights out at my grandma's house, that they turned off the phone in her room, and that her caretaker was off to bed. So I didn't call. In fact I hadn't even called to tell her I might be in NY, because I didn't want to get her hopes up that I'd make it over there.
She died less than 2 weeks later. Pneumonia and respiratory failure. (Pretty common in people who are confined to bed, I guess.)
My grandma had a DNR, but in the panic of realizing that my grandma wasn't breathing, her caretaker called 911. Once they're called they have to try to resuscitate. She ended up on life support without any brain activity.
My mom and aunt got out there immediately, but since it was so unclear what they were going to do they told the grandchildren to wait before pulling the trigger. Finally they said they were going to take her off life support in a couple of days, and we all decided to take the following day's red eye.
Only after that decision was made and flights booked did my mom and my aunt realize that they couldn't wait that long (because Jewish funeral homes don't work from Friday to Saturday, so there was a whole timing thing that I'm still not completely clear on.) Without telling us, they took her off the machines, and she was "officially" dead before our planes ever took off.
[Decisions like this are made every day by families, which is why some of the "shock" around the Terri Schiavo case always surprised me.]
On the one hand, I'm not sure it would have been better to see her shell of a body as my last memory of her, rather than my last visit when she was still alive and alert and her usual charming-grandma-self.
On the other, I do feel a little bit like I missed the chance to say goodbye, even to someone who would have been unaware of it.
I think I feel worse about not getting to see her the 2 weeks before. It's like the airlines screwed me twice...first by turning a simple trip home into a 36-hour odyssey to begin with, second my not having the courtesy to get me into JFK just one hour earlier!
I'm getting to the age where more and more people I know are dying or are having close relatives/friends die. Wrinkles and random body aches are no big deal. But this part of aging kinda sucks.
UPDATED: Here I am the day after writing this post, reading the Sunday paper. And as I pass the obituaries a name catches my eye. The father of a former co-worker of mine has died. Definitely at that age. I feel like I should start checking the obits now. Is that morbid? Do you do that?