Monday, April 06, 2009

An Unwanted Journey: Day 1231 – The Natural Order of Things


My mother and father have visited me quite a bit since I was discharged in late November from hospital to home hospice/palliative care. They’ve seen my ups and downs, moments when I can hardly keep my eyes open from the fatigue or times when the pain is overwhelming, and other times when I greet them at the door, proud that I have the energy to do so.

At the end of some of those visits, Mom has often slipped me some money instructing me only to buy some telephone cards. That way, she and Dad wouldn’t worry about waking me when I should otherwise be resting. I could call them instead using the phone card. While visits are always better, the truth is that the 2-hour drive between their home and my home has been difficult during this long and cold winter. Phone cards and regular conversations minimize the distance and worries about car travel for them (I really can’t make the trip, no matter how much I would like to do so).

On a recent visit, when I was feeling especially weak and in pain, Mom whispered in my ear, as she hugged me and said good-bye, how her deepest wish was that I would recover, that God would provide a miracle, a miracle in which we would follow the natural order of things; namely, that she the parent would pre-decease me the child. In effect, she was wishing for her own death and for my life.

I get it. I’m a parent too. Like her, I would never want one of my children to die before me.

To her, I’ll always be her Donny, the first-born and eldest child. Mom has experienced the out-of-order death of a child twice before. I think anticipating a third death weighed heavy on her heart.

But life and luck sometimes continue to trip us up and kick us when we’re down.

A couple days ago, Mom fell while leaving their house to go for a ride in the car. She broke her hip, a clean break and one that would normally be amenable to a plate-and-pin mending procedure.

Things were looking good. Then today we discover that she will not be getting that surgery after all. For a variety of reasons, she will not be recovering from her fall. Instead, it appears almost certain that she will predecease me after all. Her medical team will do all they can to keep her pain free, but there isn’t much more they can do for her. She is dying.

But she is responsive. She is loved and she knows it. That is something we share with one another. Although circumstances should be different for both of us, there are two certainties, the physical certainty of death and the emotional certainty of our love for one another. Whatever the timing and however nasty and unfair it might seem, love takes away much of the sting of death’s tragic inevitability.


Michael Spencer said...

Don - please know that, even though Dad may not have voiced it yet, your condition also weighs very heavily on him. As he and we were receiving the bad prognosis yesterday, he broke down and mentioned "the 3" which surely refers to how he is, perhaps silently, trying to deal with your situation as well as Mom's and Randy's. I just wanted you to know that, even in the absence of a spoken or written word, you are foremost in everyone's thoughts these days, even mine, brother.


Katherine Siebert said...

Mom mentioned your mother's fall but I am shocked and saddened to read your blog post this morning. Our deep sympathies for you and your family as you face this.

Much love,

Anonymous said...

Don - I'm so sorry to hear this. I have such fond recollections of both your parents. Wish you and your families the best under these most difficult circumstances.

Way West

Don Spencer said...

Kathy, Michael and Mike,

Thank you to each of you for your thoughts and well wishes. Today will be difficult, especially for my siblings as they try to do a day's work wondering what is happening in Barrie with our mother.

My own physical response has been a panic attack with raised anxiety levels and a sensation that I will lose my breath. But I am dealing with that by sitting in the wheel chair watching the snow fall, the wind blow, and the American gold finches get as much niger seed from our bird feeder as possible. They appear to be resting between feedings right now.

Mike, I think our temperature may actually be lower today than what you are experiencing in Winnipeg.

Again, thanks to each of you.


Episcopaliann said...

Dear Don and Family,

I am deeply saddened to hear your news, and want you to know that you remain very much in my heart and prayers.

Thank you, Don, for sharing this so beautifully--what a gift you have for words--what a gift you are to your family and friends!

In peace,


Brie said...

Oh Don, I am sitting at a window watching the snow as I write this, thinking of you doing the same.
As a mother, I can imagine the sorrow in watching a beloved child in their illness, and full well understand the feeling of "out of the natural order". No matter how old or how big, our children are always our beloved children ....
As a child, I grieve with you at the impending loss of a loved parent ...
More than anything else, 'though, in all this sorrow and loss, there is love. It is there in every word you write - both your love for your mom, and your mom's love for you.

To love and be loved are the greatest gifts we are ever given. And, in the end, love is really all that matters, all there really is...

... and so I send you and your family mine .....

P.S. I don't have any finches to watch, but the big fat goose that just walked past my window said to say hi!


wendy said...

Don, I feel very sad for your loss. But thank you for writing so very beautifully.

Judi said...

Dear Don:

Mary Dempster has often mentioned your blog to us and I just now went on-line to check out your journey, only to find you in this spot, thinking of your Mom, your own physical problems, etc.

So, I just wanted to send you notice that I am thinking of you and praying for you now and will continue to do so. Even though our life-journeys have separated us for over 35 years, I still have fond memories of your warm smile and quick mind.

May there be peace for you in the middle of all of this.

With love,

Tom Snowdon,

EPBC, many years ago

Daria said...


I've just recently started following your blog ... I look forward to reading more of your story.


Anonymous said...

My condolences at the passing of your mom and please mention to your dad that I wish him the best during this sad time.

Take comfort in the fond memories you have of your mom, her unshakeable love for you and her fabulous gift of life to you.

brie said...

I'm sorry, Don.


Marie B. Elenda said...

Thinking of you ....