Category Archives: Uncategorized

#TBT: Drum major

Found in my father’s belongings, these photos of me as drum major in October 1978:

I was not drum major for my high school band, but David Flick, the drum major, was in the Homecoming court, so I subbed as drum major for one homecoming parade and football game.  I recall even now that I did not have the strength for it, nor the stamina. But I liked blowing the whistle and being the boss.

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And yet . . .

E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come,  and night shall be no more. They need no light, nor lamp, nor sun, for Christ shall be their all.

This prayer is mine tonight, as my father lingers yet.  His nurse said again tonight “he’s making his way,” but slowly and in his . . . and God’s . . . own time.

He is no longer recognizing us, and has not spoken today. His breathing has changed, and we are aware of other signs of the progress toward death.

But he’s still here.

Great-niece Lily visited again today.  So did my niece Anna.

This is one cute child…..

Hospice

Monday.

Monday, my father signed hospice papers, and is now officially under the care of Crossroads Hospice in suburban Kansas City.

At some point between the time we visited on Sunday evening and the Monday morning, Pop decided that enough was enough, and that nature was going to do what nature wanted to do.  Acute myeloid leukemia is a really angry malignancy.

We talked with the oncologist (the wonderful Dr. Jacob Smeltzer) in early afternoon.  By 6 p.m. the chaplain was at the house, followed by the intake nurse.  I left the home at 9.40 p.m., and all was done.

Hospital furnishings arrive Tuesday.

LILYetal-web - 7

With my sisters Karen and Beth, and Pop. 23 Nov 2017.

This is surreal.  Less than six weeks ago, we knew nothing of this leukemia.  A routine blood check led in quick doctor visits to a cancer diagnosis, a round of chemotherapy, up days and down, and then a hospitalization this past week.

Pop is sapped.  We all are just emotional shells right now, doing what must be done.

We are of course folk of deep Christian faith, and while we don’t fear the Beyond, this transition is fraught with emotion.

I’m reminded of the words from a favorite hymn:

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
shine through the gloom, and point me toward the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

And at some point in the next few days, I will be writing an obituary for my father.  I chose his casket already (pending approval from my sisters).

Pop’s brother and sister-in-law were in town this weekend, from their home in Joplin.  I watched today as they said goodbye to my father, knowing that this would be the last time they saw him alive.  And I finally shed some of my own tears.

What a strange journey this is.  And what an odd Christmas this will be.

Rough week

pop-in-his-chairMy father Richard had a rough week last week, spending the bulk of it in hospital with an undetermined infection in his blood.

Pop’s acute myeloid leukemia makes him particularly susceptible to any germ at all.  His white cells are practically non-existent, and the number of neutrophils on Tuesday last week was 1% of what a healthy person would have.

Less than four weeks after the official diagnosis, this infection hit, with a vengeance that included a 911 call and an ambulance ride.

Pop’s wife, Joanne, has carried on the hospital watch, and my sisters have been in and out every day.

So I am in Lee’s Summit this morning, having driven over on Sunday evening after the Webster University holiday concert, A Gift to the City. I’ll join Pop and Jo at the oncologist’s office on Monday.

We appear to have dodged further complications this time, but acute leukemia in an octogenarian is a nasty diagnosis, and I am mindful that we are one misplaced germ away from another infection.

Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Comfort and relieve your sick servant Richrd, and give your power of healing to those who minister to his needs, that he may be strengthened in his weakness and have confidence in your loving care; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Death

Several deaths this past week, touching me tangentially.  Wife of a colleague.  Parent of a student.  Friend from long ago.

Here’s John Donne (1633):

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.