Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Finishing Well

Some days are harder than others. It is part of what makes life interesting, the ebb and flow of fortune and the disparate demands our lives make of us. One minute the sun shines brightly on our plans and ambitions. Then suddenly all goes dark and every crossroad looks like a crisis.

It is this volatility that gives our lives meaning. If not for conflict and the possibility of defeat, at some point there would be nothing driving us out of bed in the morning. Fear is a great motivator. Conflict is the straw that stirs the drink. Fear of conflict then is a waste of energy. We should invite it, relish the prospect. For some, life is about peace at any price. Not me, I have always thrived in conflict. For me it concentrates the mind and eliminates distraction. Winston Churchill said it best, “Nothing in life is as exhilarating as to be shot at with no result.”

But, when it comes to my Dad, I’m exhausted. For nearly two years now we have been managing his care, dealing with his inexorable physical and emotional decline. My sisters, my brother and the rest of the family have been struggling mightily with decisions great and small, trying to make Dad’s final years as comfortable and fulfilling as possible. It has been a noble struggle. He deserves much more than we have given, but we have given all we have.

He is now entering a new phase of decline that will require new forms of care. Decisions must be made soon. We will do the best we can. The love and support of friends has been tremendously helpful, comforting in ways unimaginable. But this conflict has taken a toll on me, altering me forever, changing the way I see the world. I can’t speak for my siblings but I imagine it has changed them too.

I remember once, my Dad fussing at me about some project I had started with great fanfare only to have lost interest, leaving the thing undone. “It’s not how you start son, it’s how you finish.”

We are determined to allow my Dad to finish well. But honestly, in doing so, it’s about to kill me.