As a baby boomer, I have joined the ranks of many of my brethren and can say I am part of the “sandwich” generation. I have children who are teenagers and I am helping them to leave the nest. I had a parent that needed my help to fly and leave his nest as well. How many of you have similar stories to the one I am about to tell?
On June 19, 2008 I lost my father. I would say that he died, but he wouldn’t let us use that term. He preferred that we say he “transitioned”. My father was an amazing man. He lived life with integrity and purpose. He was 84 years old and his mind was as sharp as ever. He had renal failure and had been on dialysis. His body was getting weaker and weaker and he finally decided to stop the dialysis. This allowed him to “transition” on his own terms. Once again his strength and dignity prevailed.
Having now gone through the experience of losing a parent and being there for the transition, it has caused me to look at how we see and experience death in our culture. I realize that each person needs to be allowed (whenever possible) to die on his or her own terms.
My father had expressed his wishes to my family and me well in advance and we were able to discuss them with him and understand what he wanted. He also put these wishes into a legal document known as a living will. In his, he put me in charge. At the time, I didn’t realize how important that was. But, when the time came, I had to act.
I felt like Shirley MacLaine in the movie “Terms of Endearment” when she was fighting for pain medications for her daughter who was dying. I had to scream for morphine for my father when his lungs started to fill up with fluid. Fortunately, after quite a bit of drama, he was able to get what he needed and I honored the promise that I made to him. His transition was peaceful and I am happy that he got what he wanted. In the wake of all this is a massive amount of grief, which is a natural part of life.
I share this story so that it will allow you to pause and think about whether you have a living will. Have you discussed the issues of death and dying with your loved ones? Although many of us live as if we will never die, that is one of those things that is inevitable for all of us.
Although death is never easy, knowing what my dad wanted and knowing that we were able to provide it both with the living will and details of his funeral that he planned ahead of time, made things better somehow.
Death is a natural part of the cycle of life. It is okay to talk about it and to address it when it is staring you in the face. But, it is also important to say all the wonderful things you want to say and understand the wants and needs of others before an emergency situation develops.
Hug your children, your parents, your brothers and sisters and your friends. Tell them you love them as often as you can. That is what my father taught me. I am glad I was able to tell him that many times before his grand transition!
Dr. R: Well, here we are chatting again, just like we do in our book, only this time … the book is done and we’re actually having a blog chat – how about that?! I know there have been sightings of our finished book, but it won’t be officially released until September 1. How are you feeling now that book will be out in a few weeks?
Dr. J: Relieved that it’s finished, excited, a bit nervous, and very hopeful that our readers will like it and find it useful. I especially hope that our readers will see that they really need now to focus on taking care of themselves as well as they have taken care of everyone else all these years. What do you hope our readers learn from reading the book?
Dr. R: That they should trust their instincts, especially about how they’re feeling physically or about new symptoms they’re having. I believe that the stories we share in the book – of our patients and of our own health issues – will show women that they are usually correct when they think something is not right with their bodies, and that they should speak up about it.
Dr. J: So true. Many of us have been healthy for so many years now that we’re surprised when new symptoms or an illness occurs at this age, and, we ignore it or talk ourselves out of it for many reasons: because we don’t have time to be sick, don’t believe it can be happening to us, and don’t want to bother anyone. Look at you for example. In the book you tell the story of how you thought being fatigued, pale, and having frequent heavy periods was normal for menopause!
Dr. R: And what about you?!! The book tells how you ignored abdominal pain for a long while.
Dr. J: That’s right. I hope our readers will learn from our experiences and from those of our patients, and will take our constant mantra of “The 4 A’s” to heart and use them regularly.
Dr. R: The 4 A’s are discussed throughout our book, and are a subject for an entirely new blog.
Dr. J: So, what else will we be blogging about in the coming weeks?
Dr. R: As we said on the Blog page of this website, new medical information keeps on coming! In the blogs to come, we’ll be talking about a recent study comparing the results of the major types of weight loss diets including the Atkins diet (low carbs and high protein) and the Mediterranean diet. Those results will surprise some of our readers.
Dr. J: And there’s a new study stating that the number of HIV cases in the U.S. has been underestimated. We’ll discuss that and what it means for our readers, as well as the new recommendations for who should be screened for Type II diabetes. And, I’ll be talking about mopping and how…
Dr. R: Mopping?! Are you serious? How would you know about mopping? Besides what’s there to talk about?
Dr. J: You’ll just have to wait and see. Let’s wind this up by telling our readers how excited we are to be here, and how pleased we are that they will be able to read our book soon, AND that we definitely want to hear from them – about the book and about their thoughts on their health.
Dr. R: And that we will be blogging at least once a week, and more often as medical information comes out that we need to update you on. The format of the blogs will vary too; they won’t all be chats like this one is. Sometimes only one of us will do the blogging.
We’ll end today’s blog by saying:
Both: Welcome again!!!!