This photo is actually from a year ago yesterday. My dad had gone into ER because (we later found out) he had a stress fracture in his knee. He was able to stand, and even walk, so they sent him home, but the next day–a year ago today–he couldn't stand, and went into the hospital. We didn't know it then, but he was leaving his home for the last time. From the hospital, he went into rehab, to build his strength while his knee healed.
What we didn't know was that his cancer was progressing very fast. And on Christmas night, he was taken from rehab back to the hospital. Four days later he passed away, with all of us with him.
I hate that my dad is gone. I wish we could have had him for many more years. But given that he is gone, there are some things I am grateful for about his passing:
1. I am grateful that we didn't know how bad his cancer was, or that he was dying. That's a weird thing for me to say, because normally I want all the information I can get and I am deeply opposed to deception. (And I don't mean that anyone deceived us here, just that we didn't know.) But this time... I'm glad we didn't know. I'm glad that we were able to honestly sit there with him and tell him that the plan was to get him stronger so we could bring him home;
2. I'm beyond grateful that my family lives here, in the same town as my parents, and that I was able to visit him nearly every day that he was in rehab. I am so grateful for the time I had with him, even though I still kick myself for not spending more time with him;
3. I am grateful that I told him, after he had been in rehab for well over a month, and was getting very tired of being there, that nobody could force him to stay there and if he really wanted to come home we would make that happen. He said no, that he thought the best plan was to stay there and work with the therapists to get stronger. But I am so glad I got to tell him that–it would have haunted me forever if I hadn't;
4. I am grateful that we were able to resolve all of our shit well before he died, and that there was nothing left unsaid between us;
5. And I am grateful that he told me how much he appreciated my being there for him those last few months. I didn't think he needed to say it at the time, and was almost offended that he thought he did. But it matters now and I'm so glad he said it.
When we took my dad into ER, a year ago yesterday, my mom started doing her qi gong in the hospital–to hold herself together, I'm sure. I got some pictures of her, and this is one of them. I love these pictures. They say so much about their relationship, and about each of them as individuals. About how they were each very different from each other, on different paths and with very different focuses in life, yet still so deeply connected.
Losing my dad was really hard. It is still really hard. It wasn't long after he left us that "it" all started "coming down"–just like he'd spent our whole lives telling us it would. And if he had gone into the hospital, and into rehab, only a few months later than he did, our experience would have been very very different.
I get that the elderly are the most at risk from Covid-19. Just as they are from a host of other infectious pathogens that entire economies haven't been destroyed over. And I get that that risk–for them, not for the rest of us–seems to be worse than for flu and other corona viruses. But none of that justifies how this has been handled. None of that justifies shutting people away and not allowing them to see their loved ones in their last months, weeks, or days of life.
I agree that measures should be taken to protect the elderly from Covid-19 (and from other things that might kill them, including loneliness and despair). But if isolating them in that way is the best that the people making these decisions could come up with, then they have failed so miserably that they should never again be allowed to have responsibility for anything beyond–possibly–dressing themselves. Everyone involved in coming up with, and enforcing, these decisions should be so deeply ashamed as to be placed on suicide watch for a good long time.
I can't even imagine, and don't want to, what our last two months with our dad would have been like had he gone into the hospital today instead of a year ago today. He hated being in that place. He chose it, because he thought it was the best way for him to build up his strength, but he did not like being there. The only thing that kept him going was being able to see his people every day. I don't even want to think about what a nightmare it would have been for him, and for us, knowing how miserable and alone he was every day, or the guilt and pain we would have to live with forever after he died.
What has been committed here is a crime. Call it a crime against humanity, or call it a crime against a whole lot of people, but it is a crime and we need to call it that. And one day, the people responsible for this crime will be held accountable.