My Father’s Dying Days Showed Me There’s No Such Thing As ‘Death With Dignity’
Hospice care was supposed to make it all easier — for him and for us. But that hardly helped when the man I loved was reduced to nothing.
Illustrations by Paige Mehrer
My father is dying and no one is trying to save him.
“You don’t even give IV fluids?” I ask the hospice nurse.
“No, he’s on his own journey now.”
But a person can’t travel without water, I think.
I try to be reassured by the nurse’s words even as I see my father grasp for the liquid-soaked sponge lollipop we place against his parched lips. The thimble of water remains pooled in his mouth. Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t just make minds weak; bodies, too, forget how to function.
I saw my father just ten days earlier. He had been placed in rehab after a fall. Damaged and diminished, he was still aware of who I was. He allowed me to steady him as he shuffled on a walk down the hall, to feed him, to talk to him as if he were a baby, in the hope I could make him understand me. But he could still love me back.
“Be careful,” he said when I was leaving. “Take care of yourself. Do you have money?”