In June of 2013 I wrote a blog about my brother-in-law Hy who had Alzheimer’s and was staying with us at that time, (If you wish to read the blog entry use the following link: tp://wp.me/p13BTS-xh. His life was in an upheaval; not liking where he was living in assisted living, he called me to come and get him and that he no longer wanted to live in a place he didn’t like. The days while he was with us passed quickly. Each morning I arose very early to find Hy somewhere near his room. Each time I motioned for him to join me in the kitchen. After making coffee and preparing something for breakfast (pancakes were high on his list of likes!) he and I sat together chatting.
Often he would tell me tales of his family based on youthful or adult memories. Almost always, a twinkle formed in his eye as his yarn unfolded and even when I knew the story was slightly different it didn’t matter because the twinkle made me smile. Not often did we discuss his disease, although at times he acknowledged and shared his worries about having Alzheimer’s.
At the early breakfast table chats I was heavy, as I am now. With a little prodding and a joke from him I tried to explain my eating patterns. He was adamant that I needed to change and in the meantime he nicknamed me “Big Boy”, a name that he always remembered. Regardless of the conversation, soon we would break into singing old songs which seemed to bring the chat all together so that we each had an enjoyable time.
After his stay with us, he moved to a very nice apartment in another assisted living apartment building. After a year and a couple of months of enjoying his new home, his condition quickly changed and Hy passed away following a stroke.
The change began when he sustained a head injury a few weeks before. The emergency room nurse told us nothing serious was found and that he was going home that same day. During the next two to three weeks Hy continued to deteriorate until the day he had the stroke. He was in the hospital a very short time and discharged to his home with hospice. M and I saw him two times after he returned from the hospital.
He laid in a small hospital bed in the corner of his bedroom. A hospice nurse sat in the opposite corner watching him and waiting to see any changes and to give him the regimented dose of morphine. This first day, even though medicated and unable to speak he was able to let us know he knew us. Once he tried to speak. I could tell he was asking me about something. Finally I realized he was asking what was wrong with him. I simply told him he had a stroke which his left side paralyzed. He understood and began to hit the bad leg. It was clear his was upset and sad at the grave change in his health. I think he knew that his living was over.
We told him good-bye and that we would see him the following day. We left disturbed because he received only tiny dose of Morphine, an amount that couldn’t even be labeled as a palliative dose. We feared that with a minimal dose he would linger too long in this state and suffer each hour.
The next day’s visit was different. The morphine dose was at an acceptable level. We could tell that he would not last more than another day. We bid our separate good byes to him and silently left with thoughts of him and his life running through our heads. The next morning he died around 11:30 a.m.
Death is not joyful, but at times death is better for the person. He never wished to linger for death to arrive on some unknown future date and be tormented by a ravaged mind that could not understand it all. Now it is over and the living must deal with his passing.
Since we moved to Florida five years ago I have enjoyed having him at our house for small dinners and larger parties. Years ago when M and I had a dinner party I realized there were two tables of guests that needed attention. I took one of them to sit at and then put Hy and his wife at the other to make sure those guests were happy. They were amazing at table talk and the guests enjoyed the attention they gave to them. In Florida Hy became even more jovial and fun. As his mind deteriorated Hy continued to enjoy life and be concerned about the people he knew. So many times he called to find out how I was during the time that I had surgery, broken ribs, chemo, and a host of continuing problems. Yes, I shall miss him and continue to believe that to have been with Hy was to enjoy Life at the fullest. Understanding that makes saying good-bye easier.