Charles Prugh and The Art of Living and Dying: June 23

In the mornings when I wake up and haven’t been much interested in being awake or dealing with my life or encountering what I perceive is ahead. Then I go into it, and it stinks. Literally, like throw up mostly, but its not so bad. Its not so bad watching your dad throw up in a bucket and down his smock. Its not so bad watching him lecture to imaginary people in his head while he’s sleeping. Listening to a man or woman next door, you can’t really tell – hacking and coughing, spitting, the sound before she drops and dies.

Dad knows he’s dying. Yesterday the Demerol and the morphine kicked in at the same time. That meant that he was really out of it and nearly went into a coma. My sister was there to see it. He pulled up his gown, he yelled out that the Germans were coming, he didn’t know who she was and he said out loud that he was dying. He knows he’s dying. Watching his hands tonight, fiddling with the blankets, shaking a lot like little electrical spasms. His eyes rolled up and his eyelids never really closed. He talks and he listens as if he’s in a room full of clients or at a speaking engagement. He is doing what he loves one way or another.

Tomorrow we find out the results of the CAT scan. I guess it is spelled that way. It certainly would be if I had to take one. There is this bed called the Temple Bed that sits outside my dad’s door. It’s a huge cloth cage. There is this round netting so you can see out but you are secure in there. Its for people who are confused the nurse tells me. Maybe drug addicts or Alzheimer’s patients. As Dad was being wheeled out on the gurney I told him that he should be glad he wasn’t going in the temple bed. Earlier a nurse pulled me aside to ask if Dad was cognizant. I don’t think she understood the talking in his sleep as if he was awake. Mom said he’s been talking to himself more lately. It’s a comforting device. Its hard to know where to look for comfort in a place like that, in pain, out of control and scared but totally drugged. How do you die in your sleep? I’d sure like to know how that happens. Is it possible to do enough real work on yourself that you can time your death? It might be worth a try.

Bob Moore came from St. Johns late this afternoon before the CAT scan. We chatted for a bit between dad’s throwing up into the bucket. He and I left the room for a bit so dad could have some privacy. He asked me about it. I told him. I told him what I knew which isn’t much. I told him what I thought which was a lot. But what do I think I know. Then we had communion. It was like a little girl’s silver tea party, a mini tray with the wafers, a mini cup of wine on a tea tray and when packed up it all fits in a little suitcase that he carries around with him. The service was written on a thick hand out that we could just do in less than five minutes. It was simple, easy, comforting, even though the confession of sin is totally messed up – and familiar. Family. My mom and Dad and Bob and I sharing communion.

I’ve made a pact not to talk about any family member with any other family member. Not to listen to any family member bitch about any other family member. I have told mom and and one sister about this pact. I am waiting for the other sister to calm down enough. Dad isn’t lucid enough to be bitching about much about anything except being left alone long enough to sleep so I don’t think I need to pass this message onto him at the moment.

You can walk out of that hospital into the parking lot and smell whatever it is, formaldehyde, throw up, death. You can get into your car and when your not noticing take a whiff of it. Or you can sit on the family room couch and smell it. That’s what you have to look forward to when you have been away from it and you know you have to come back. With that smell there is sort of a numbness that takes over. A sense of duty, a sense of that this is where you belong and you just do what is front of you to do if its getting a Kleenex for him or its time to figure out where to eat dinner or its time for more drugs. You just do it.

About the author