My father’s dying spanned a decade. Though not on his death certificate, Dad died from dementia. His decline seemed like a daily drop of water filling a bathtub.
My mother’s dying occurred in the hottest stretch of a singular summer. There was a clenched fistful of weeks from diagnosis to death. Though not on her death certificate, Mom died because of an opportunistic, savage cancer. But her rapid decline also unfolded like a film stuck in slow motion. A solitary hour of holding her hand in intensive care could feel like a week.
Then, in the midst of their dying, the phone rang. It rang while I wished my father’s cruel dementia would please, please, please be over. It rang while I longingly, lovingly prayed for an impossible miracle to spare Mom more pain.
In one call, my older sister informed me Dad had died. In the other, a year-and-a-half later, a nurse spoke on a phone down the hallway from Mom’s hospital room to tell me about the death.
For all the differences in their dying, and in their diseases and our decisions about care, one of my first thoughts after twice placing the phone back on the cradle was . . .
Dad’s death was sudden.
Mom’s death was sudden.
How often does death feel like that? Read More →by