I wrote my father-in-law’s obituary yesterday. Yet another task I didn’t expect to do in my life, but another ritual after death that must be done, and done well.
He passed away early Sunday morning, just after midnight, nearly a week since the morphine was started. His passing was as peaceful as we could have made it, his final moments with my husband and mother-in-law by his side.
While the rest of my family went to the funeral home to finalize plans Sunday afternoon, my husband asked if I would work on the obituary. So I sat with the outline from the funeral home and a few examples I found on Google, and I got to work.
How do you even begin to sum up someone’s life in just a few sentences? Doing him justice would surely take more time and space than the small bit allowed.
How can I fully capture the type of man he was? He was a devoted husband and father. Soon after meeting him, I realized what a good example he had set for his son, and it’s part of the reason I fell in love with my husband. Once it was clear that I would become a part of the family, he never treated me like a daughter-in-law. I was his daughter.
He was instrumental in helping to raise my girls. How can you quantify the value of his presence in their lives, the family dinners, the activity shuttling, the time in conversation, the example he led for my girls? You simply can’t.
I will remember his epic dad jokes, some of which I admittedly fell for the first time I heard each of them. I will remember his mischievous grin, a trait that my husband inherited. Looking back on old photos, there was a picture of my husband as a young boy with that same expression. And even up to his final weeks, we still caught glimpses of this grin from him.
When hospice care was being considered several weeks ago, I don’t think any of us expected that we would be saying goodbye so soon. His passing may seem quick to an outside observer, but the truth is that Parkinson’s robbed pieces of him, bit by bit, over several years. He deserved far better in his final days on this earth, but I suppose we can’t choose how our lives will end.
The past week, we had lots of visitors. He was surrounded by conversation, telling stories as we looked over photos from his life. Maybe he simply didn’t want to miss out on hearing these. Maybe this is why he waited so long to pass.
My mother-in-law’s devotion to him and the exceptional care she gave him is admirable. Even as Parkinson’s deteriorated his body and mind, her love for him was unconditional and comforting. May we all have a caregiver as wonderful as her in our lives.
Now we genuinely grieve, partly grateful that he is no longer suffering, partly feeling guilt in the relief that the burden of around-the-clock caregiving has been lifted. But the spaces we held for that time in caregiving must be replaced with other things.
Now the care for my mother-in-law begins, to help her make this transition to her new normal without her life partner. To fill some of those spaces with peace and joy. To help her focus on caring for herself just a little, as she has spent the majority of her life caring for others.
I didn’t sleep as well as I expected to last night. I thought peaceful slumber would finally arrive. But my brain is still on alert, waiting for that phone call in the middle of the night that brings change or bad news. Hopefully, the anxiety will be quelled soon, as we close the final chapter in his life.
It’s been a long week full of emotions, with little sleep, but with no regrets.
As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.