Thursday, February 28, 2008

Really, he's dead? We can Help!

We've all heard the expression "Ambulance Chasers" which most often refers to attorneys (rightly or wrong) who follow an injured party to determine whether or not their services can be of use; usually in a wrongful injury, death or something along those lines. If any of you have seen the 1992 movie "My cousin Vinnie" which starred Joe Pesci, I'm sure you remember his character, Vincent Gambini, who in the middle of a bar room scene asks an obviously injured man wearing a neck brace where he hurt his neck; was it at home, on the job, maybe at someone else's house? When the man responded that it was no ones fault, Vincent Gambini replied, "too bad". Although satirical, this was an example of how "Ambulance Chasers" are portrayed.

In the past ten days since my father has passed I have come to coin a phrase of my own; "Coffin Chasers". Yes, "Coffin Chasers". Let me explain myself a bit. It all began innocently enough the day of my fathers wake when a realtor who will remain nameless, visited the funeral home to pay her respects. This realtor had sold my father his home nearly six years ago and had never had any contact with him since; they were not friends. I also used this realtor when I purchased my home and have spoken to her perhaps 3 times in the last 9 years, very briefly; we're not friends either. When I first saw her I thought it was extremely nice of her to visit.

About three days later, just after his burial I received a solicitation, a phone call from a local attorney, again not a friend, advising me that I needed to find my fathers will and bring it to her and she would take care of everything from there. At the time I thought it very odd that she was calling me advising me what I needed to do, especially since I had not asked for her help. As the days progressed I received a letter from an unknown attorney again advising me that their firm would be happy to assist in the probate and distribution process; all I needed to do was call the number on the business card provided. So far this doesn't sound too bad, I know. I have been asked by other people who have no right in my opinion to even broach the subject, what my intentions are with certain property, you see they would "like to invest". Another gentleman, using the term lightly, has advised me that before I sell anything, a friend of his would like to speak to me first and we can avoid paying a realtor. Others have told me what I need to do, or who I need to give the contents of his home to, I've gotten sympathy cards from bankers I don't even know....every one of these "helpful", opportunistic people have simply taken it upon themselves to let me know what I need to do and have no right in my book to even stick their noses in. I can't help but read their thoughts of possible gain from my fathers death and would really like to spit at them.

Now I realize that right now I'm a little sensitive when it comes to this matter, and have to admit that I can be very cynical at times, but I can't see this type of behavior. It's all communicated under the guise that they are trying to help and would be welcomed...IF I HAD ASKED! I try to think of it in reverse and wonder how it would be accepted or what kind of a shit I would be if I visited or wrote families that I deal with and asked them these same questions or gave them this same advice. I have had experience in sales and I know I'm now a "prospect", simply by virtue of an obituary, but a line needs to be drawn defining when and how this contact should be allowed.

In conclusion, if any of these people have done what they have simply out of concern or respect I apologize, but if they haven't....they'll just have to read between the lines of the three upheld fingers of my right hand.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mr. Dash

I thought accepting his decision was hard? That was nothing compared to accepting his departure. My father passed away late last week after a long battle with a disease that he had once beaten. If cancer had a will, a brain, I'd say fucking cancer sucks, it strikes with no regard to who you are, what you do, and gives not a single shit what kind of pain it causes or the aftermath it leaves.
The only way I can console myself is knowing that he is no longer in pain; he actually wanted to die, he was tired, finished, ready. I loved him, still do, we all do and always will but he won't be around anymore and it hurts bad. I guess some people might think that because I see this every day that it has to be easy for me, or easier; I'm not sure if that's true, I don't think it is.
One of my colleagues assisted in directing his funeral and spoke to the crowd in the cemetery after the committal service and recited a poem by Linda Ellis. I had heard it before but to hear it at that moment helped us all so much. I want to thank the poet, Linda Ellis and I want to thank Doris for these words. Please read this:
The Dash, A poem by Linda Ellis
I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end
He noted that first came her date of her birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years
For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?
My fathers dash was wonderful and will always be remembered as such. These simple words are not only conforting but are very true indeed. Once again, I want to thank both of you ladies for sharing this with me and the rest of the world. Thank You so much for the solace you gave us.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

His Choice

Very rarely do I speak of anyone other than others; today however is my day, about my life, really about my fathers life.

Recently I have had to accept a decision which I probably could have swayed if I followed my selfish heart. This decision was hard to accept, I think maybe the hardest in my life, but I stress "my" life. As some of you may know, or have gotten the gist from other posts I've written, my father is ill. Ill to the extent where he was deemed terminal many months ago.

For the longest time I've been aware of this, my siblings, their families, most of his friends also know of his situation yet he was bearing the disease quite well. For the past 3 maybe 6 weeks he has been slipping faster than anyone has expected, certainly his family.
His last hospital stay was the first time his "DNR" was posted for me to see, for all to see. I knew his wishes and was not really shocked by his request; I knew it had been in place for many years but to actually see it hanging on his door was difficult to say the least.

He remained in the hospital for nine days and underwent several batteries of tests, some results were hopeful while others showed a different picture, a truer picture; he is slowly dieing before my eyes and there is nothing that I can do to stop it. Dad has good days and bad days and so-so days and horrible days; perhaps days is the incorrect description since these days continuously vary by the hour. My biggest concern at this point is that he will feel no pain.

He was at a strange stage the past week although one I understood entirely. I would call it hopelessly hopeful. He knows he's terminal, but........he also is still off and on grabbing at straws, not always, but definitely during his good hours. During the last hospital stay he was basically "told" by a physician that a certain procedure was their next line of defense; it was going to be performed. My father is of the generation who trust in doctors implicitly and rarely asks questions, he follows their orders to the letter.

When he was discharged and I got him home it was evident that his hospital stay had done nothing for him yet I myself was still as hopeful of the upcoming procedure as was he. My brother and sister in law arrived that day and spent the weekend with him caring for his every need; he loved seeing them and they were a tremendous help.

Once at home I did some research on the mentioned procedure and found what I thought I would. It is not a cure, which I expected, and as any other procedure or medication for that matter, there were possible adverse side affects. I was with him when he was told it was what they were going to do and none of this was mentioned to him other than possible nausea. I felt he deserved to know what I had read and also deserved to know that this was not something he had to do unless he wanted to. I was very hesitant about telling him this because under all of it I was hoping he'd still give it a shot.

The past few days have been filled with his agreement as well as disagreement of the procedure, usually depending on how he felt at the moment. Last night, I was told by a third party that he had made the final decision not to go through with it. Of course I verified this with dad and yes it is true, he has decided against any further treatment; he's tired, wants no more pain, no surgeries, he's "ready to go". Exactly what this means in respect to time I have no clue, I don't think anyone can tell us that. As much as I understand and respect his choice I still want to ask him to try it but I can't, I won't; I'm the selfish one, I want him to stay longer, but I'm not the one in pain, not the one who's been undergoing the stress and certainly not the one who should decide for him.

So...I have to accept his decision...that's hard.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Message

The other evening my wife and I met the mother of a child I had buried not quite one year ago. She was 15 years old when she was killed in an avoidable automobile accident and had a full life ahead of her. Her mother, brother, grandparents, still cannot bear her loss. The day we spoke they had her head stone erected and her death was once again brought right up front in their minds. If only this child had thought to consider the possible consequences perhaps she would be alive today. I try to spread this as far as I can; our kids need to know that they are precious and very fragile...teach them to think, please. Thank You.