Tuesday, 18 October 2011

My father's brother died

yesterday. After some weeks of restless and sometimes violent behaviour he eventually went quite peacefully. Modern medications can do a lot to help with that. On the reverse side of course modern medicine kept my uncle alive far longer than he might otherwise have lived. What the answer to that is I do not know.
There are other elderly people I know who dutifully take medications in the belief that the doctor knows best and that they are expected to live as long as possible. I do not know whether that is the right attitude or not. I do think the quality of life also matters.
When we first moved into this house there was an elderly couple who lived next door. They were in their early 80's when we first knew them. They still took their caravan to Queensland each winter. Then towing the caravan became too much and they just drove and stayed at motels on the way. Eventually (after their 65th wedding anniversary) it became too much to go anywhere.
They missed the annual trip up to the warm weather. I knitted the old man an extra heavy pullover so that he could stay warm as he worked in his garden. He was not doing too badly but his wife, always a little strange after the birth of their last child, was now more confused than ever.
I remember the day the old man came back from a visit to the doctor. He looked puzzled and a little worried. He had been told he had "mature onset diabetes" and the doctor had given him a long list of things he must now avoid eating. He showed me and shook his head over it. He was 91 by then. "Cat, if I cannot have these things now, when can I have them? I don't want to live forever."
A year later they moved into a local nursing home. His wife died soon after. I went in to see him now and then. I would take some of the forbidden chocolate. Naughty of me? Probably. He enjoyed it. He was not interested in the diet the doctor had said he "must" follow. He felt he was too old for that.
The same was true of my uncle. He enjoyed a glass of wine. He was addicted to chocolate. Many people tried to stop him from buying both wine and chocolate. He was told they should not be part of his diet. He hated that and it just made him more determined to consume both.
A friend told me she had visited an elderly relative recently. He was bedridden and unable to do anything for himself. He could not even speak. A nurse came in with some porridge for him - but no sugar on it "because he is diabetic" the nurse said apologetically. My friend looked at her relative and he looked at her. My friend said she would help with his meal. When the nurse left she pulled out one of those little packs of sugar handed out with coffee. She sprinkled it on top and helped him eat the porridge. Naughty? Yes. Kind? Yes. He died a few days later and she likes to think that he enjoyed the porridge. Certainly she said he smiled at her and there was laughter in his eyes.
If, at the end of life, there are only little things that can be enjoyed then denying them has to be the ultimate cruelty.
It makes me very glad that the last time I saw my uncle I was able to give him some of his favourite dark chocolate. Diabetic or not, he needed it.

14 comments:

Sheep Rustler said...

Sorry to hear of his death but at least it was peaceful and he had had a long life. And I think iti s ridiculous to put a 90 year old on a diet because of diabetes - you have to die of something some time and you might as well enjoy the journey once you reach a certain age!!!

liz fenwick said...

So sorry for your loss but I do know what you mean. I listen to my parents who take care of their health say - they are not meant to live your ever and they don't want to...life without wine and chocolate is not living to me.
lx

widdershins said...

Good on you for that rebellious chocolate!

jeanfromcornwall said...

I am sorry for your loss, and know it must be even harder for you Father, so I send my condolences to you both.

You were quite right to take your Uncle the chocolate. One of the poisons given commonly to lower blood pressure is well known to cause a type of diabetes, but the medics keep very quiet about that, preferring to add another poison to treat the disease that they have caused. Their intentions are good but they fail to think things through.
You, however, did the right and kindly thing.

Katherine Langrish said...

Condolences on your loss, Cat - and I so agree. I think you did just the right thing - and how good it must have felt to him to have you help him steal back a little independence from the (however well-meant) medical regime...

JO said...

I'm glad you were able to give some comfort - however small - in his dying days.

I have an aunt who insists she's lived too long. I love her, but she is too far away for me to visit frequently, and she has no-one else except the library lady and the people who leave her meals-on-wheels in the kitchen - they call out to her, to say hello (check she's alive?) but can't stop for a chat. Even I can see that her life is impoverished now.

catdownunder said...

Oh, thankyou everyone. I never thought a blog would be such an important thing or that I would meet so many good people through it.
I am glad you all agree with respect to the chocolate too. My father was a little worried when I did it but I would do it all over again.
My father has taken it pretty calmly - I think he has been preparing himself and he knew his brother had reached a point where his life had no quality. Dad has just come in from his garden - they are wonderful places at times like this!

Rachel Fenton said...

Oh, Cat. You are the human equivalent of chocolate.

Your father will be needing you in the coming days, weeks and months.

Sarah Pearson said...

My deepest wishes to you, your Father and your uncle's family.

bbookbear said...

Oh, Cat, couldn't agree with you more! My parents often say that they would rather be happy and enjoy things than live longer. So, probably because of their attitude, they are happy and they have lived quite along time already.

My condolences to you and especially to your father. Bear hugs!

Donna Hosie said...

I'm so very sorry for your loss, cat. I've been following your writing about your father's brother for a while and I'm glad the passing was peaceful.

The words you wrote are very poignant and will stay with me.

catdownunder said...

Hello Bookbear, Donna - I just got to these two messages - thankyou both of you. Means a lot that people I have never met actually care.

Jen Campbell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jen Campbell said...

Oh dear, this comment is late! Please forgive me. I'm very sorry for your loss *many hugs* and also agree with what you have said here, whole-heartedly.

There was something very Roald Dahl about the way you phrased this, and not just because of the chocolate. Sometimes you need to say:

“I understand what you're saying, and your comments are valuable, but I'm gonna ignore your advice.” - Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Lots of love to you xxxxxx