Monday, February 14, 2005

Last mile?

It hasn’t been easy: It’s the Lunar New Year and the family’s reunion dinner but Dad’s not in good health. He had not been well in the last couple of weeks and Mom was understandably affected. Dad asked for his favourite dishes, Mom told us, the fragility of our conversations and clanging cutlery strained by sounds of Dad retching in the washroom.

Last Christmas Dad was decidedly more cheerful; he was frail, but there was colour in his cheeks. We exchanged gifts, and the kids took turns performing. BJ put together a moving powerpoint presentation of the family history in photos; In that one moment of song and laughter, it came to me anew that love, as the Bible says, covers a multitude of sins. The family is surely one of God’s good gifts to humanity, I thought. We drank a toast to Dad (champagne, no less), and he thanked God for extending his life and expressed gratitude for health and family.

And now, this. Two day after the New Year reunion dinner, Albert had him admitted to Sunway Medical Centre. A growing tumour, enlarged liver, more pain in the sternum, near zero appetite, bloody stools, low platelet counts, low sodium level, etc are all telling signs that he is deteriorating. Dad’s cancer is relentless.

It’s one thing to be aware of what’s happening but arriving at a consensus regarding the next course of action is difficult. Dad flip-flops between resignation and optimism – he wants to keep his appointment with a doctor in Singapore who’s scheduled to evaluate Dad’s suitability for an experimental treatment. Yet physically he is weakening, and so he hesitates. But the ticket’s bought, and my brother is taking time off work to fly down with him.

How do you tell the difference between the will to survive and false optimism? How do you tell your own Dad to face up to the inevitable? Nearing the last mile, how do you tell a dying man about dying well?

Should we?

4 comments:

Harry said...

Of course, death is what each of us face, David; it is our final act on this earth. How fortunate we are, then, those of us that know with certainty where our destination lays. Even so, we suffer.


My own father, a good man, but a hard man to love for a larger portion of my adult life, became ill. He had suffered a major stroke while I was away, and during this long absense I had reached a point to where I decided to confront this inexplicable wall that stood between the two of us. He may have never noticed it, or if he had, he never mentioned it's existance.


I felt it deeply, and wanted to let him know the one thing I'd never expressed before; that I truly loved him.


I cannot imagine how you must feel with this present and looming certainty.


I do know the shock, however, of seeing a door closed forever before being allowed to speak from the heart, so for me, I would encourage you to do that often, and while you have time. I don't think there is a thing wrong with praising one's father to his face, and, like God, the man should know his how his son feels and thinks.


May our Lord bless you both, and your family as well.

David BC Tan said...

"I don't think there is a thing wrong with praising one's father to his face, and, like God, the man should know how his son feels and thinks."

thanks for your thoughtful sharing.
appreciate it.

Petra said...

It's been ages since I've been reading most blogs. I'm sorry to hear about your dad - both my grandfathers passed away of cancer. Maybe the most loving thing one can do is to try to reflect the love Christ would have. And does. All sounds very patronising, so if I'm getting on your nerves, please ignore me.

Is he on palliative care, etc? Please don't hesitate to call for prayers.

David BC Tan said...

Thanks Petra. I do appreciate your comment, and yes, prayer is certainly welcome!