One hundred and twenty-eight years ago today, New Mexico sheriff Pat Garrett, from Lincoln County, shot and killed William H. Bonney alias Billy the Kid, after Bonney's escape from jail. On this same day, another death, one that means more to me, may happen. Today may be the day my stepfather Phil passes. I'm trying to wrap my head around this.
In my last post, I mentioned that his doctor had found much fluid in one lung in particular, so Phil agreed to have it drained and be on a respirator for two days. He did not want any heroic measures--no resuscitation if he should pass. When the doctors went in to place the drainage tube, they did not find mere watery liquid but something thicker that comes with end-stage emphysema. One lung is gone and the other barely works.
It's not surprising he has this because he smoked so much, but I'm astounded he didn't show signs of this earlier as my mother is having now. She can barely walk before she gets winded. She has an oxygen line. He never has.
On the other hand, he made it a point to walk outside whenever he could, even in the winter. He saw the humor in his aging, as if producers on the reality show Survivor were throwing him challenges. Make is down to dinner with your arthritis flaring up. Have a conversation with your children when you can't find your hearing aides. When he laughed at himself, we were at ease. So we ended up not worrying so much but ascribing everything to aging.
One of my cousins visited Phil yesterday and sent out a massive email that said we should all send get-well cards because "Uncle Phil is only infected with one bacteria species and that his pneumonia bacteria are very susceptible to at least two antibiotics." He felt Phil would be back on his feet in seven to ten days because his "specific immune system will synthesize enough white blood cells and antibodies to kill all of the pneumonia bacteria in his body."
My brother Stuart sent a gentle response that began, "Your uncle's operation was not as successful as was hoped. With your permission, please let me add what I know in response your message."
Stuart then explained all the complications and that Phil "has not much in the way of reserve at 110 lbs. The in-town part of the family had a care conference Sunday where the doctor and the ICU nurse told us all this. We called in the Catholic chaplain Sunday to administer the Rite of the Sick."
On Sunday, too, a nurse lessened Phil's sedation so that he could become conscious. When his eyes opened, my two brothers in-town and other family members said good-bye. With a tube down his throat, he couldn't say anything, but his eyes fluttered. I think of this. How would I respond if I'd had an operation, and when I awoke, people told me good-bye? Perhaps is part of acceptance. Perhaps it's like the end of a dream.
My brothers and others will pull out the tube at 8 p.m. Phil did not want any more than that. We don't want to tell our mother this as she's anxious enough as it is, and when she gets too anxious or worried, she starts to breathe too fast and can't get enough air.
As Stuart wrote, "He only wanted to be intubated for just a couple of days as part of his recovery. He has a standing DNR order. Please say a prayer for the best outcome possible at this point. It is in God's hands." In a separate note to me and a few others, Stuart added, "I am having the Chaplain Father come in one more time for a final blessing. I may need some absolution myself. This is a hard business." Stuart has been a tower of support for all.
I'm reminded of what Rosy Cole wrote the other day to my blog that "making our exit, making way, is most likely to be the hardest work we ever do." The fact that Phil is dying a few weeks before we celebrate my mother's eightieth birthday--as she's gasping for air herself--is something none of us had contemplated, but we go with what comes our way.
Phil has not had a scintilla of fame that Billy the Kid had--or Michael Jackson, for that matter. What does it mean to live a life that a lot of people don't know about? Phil's passion for history washed over Stuart the most, but has shown all of us we're part of a continuum. Phil has shown us how to go into our golden years with some humor. We're all on the show Survivor.
Philip Wear has brought far more good into this world than bad, and that's everything.
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