The time has finally come. Yesterday we made the decision to put Hal’s father, Bill Thomas, under hospice care. The doctors say he has less than six months to live. The decision for hospice means we will no longer take “heroic measures” (hospital-speak) to keep him alive. Comfort is now the aim. And a good death.
At 97 years old, it seems appropriate.
But it also seems audacious for us to decide this. We’ve tried to involve Hal’s parents in all the decisions we make about their lives, but that has not always been possible. Family finally had to insist Dad relinquish his driver’s license. And the last few moves have been, in a sense, forced upon him and Mom.
And now Alzheimer’s, diabetes and gangrene have joined forces with old age, and Dad has moved somewhere beyond reason and choice.
And yet—the spark of life still surges. On good days, the smile that lights up his face as he recognizes us could warm any room, no matter how cold the weather. His grip is surprisingly firm, and he doesn’t want to let go. I think the phrase, “twinkling eyes,” was invented for him.
Yesterday, the day of the decision, was not one of his good days. After our conference with the doctor, we sat with Dad in his hospital room. He seemed confused and disoriented. He asked us several times where he was.
At one point as he looked out the window at the pine-covered hills of Portland, he asked, “Is that ‘up yonder’?”
“Yes,” Hal replied. “And soon you’ll be up yonder. You’ll greet your mother and father. You’ll give Jesus a hug.” That seemed to settle him, and he drifted back to sleep.
Today he comes home from the hospital, this time to stay. The hospice care team will welcome him back, and a customized hospital bed will be ready. His wife of 71 years is anxious to have him back in their room.
An audacious choice? Yes. But we also sense that we are standing on holy ground.
May the Lord have mercy on us all.