The best part about having a blog. Come and go as you please :-)
B's dad - my father-in-law passed away recently, after a 6-7 year long uphill struggle with dementia. I like to think the early years weren't as much of a struggle, and we were very lucky to be able to be there for him, with him and improve his quality of life in whatever way we could. Ironically, given that his cognition was only mildly impaired then, I also realize that he was the most affected by his situation at that point- irritation and frustration at himself, at having to depend on others for little things, inability to read the paper or do simple things that he enjoyed. But I saw him develop his own ways of dealing with it all as the years went by, and in the face of such a horribly debilitating condition, I remain thankful for the smaller mercies- a good geriatric doctor who guided us, a helpful local chapter of dementia caregivers association, a very caring and sympathetic full time attendant we had for the last year, a supportive maid at home, and of course, the financial ability we had to tap into all these resources.
The last year was definitely the hardest, on him, and on all of us. After a single hospitalization, he was pushed past a brink that rendered him bedridden for all practical purposes. He gradually stopped talking coherently, had to be diapered and hauled between bed and chair...fed by the attendant. He reacted to us, responded to our voices, to his attendant's voice, but in the last months, we saw that also fade out. To the point when we realized our presence/absence was not making a difference.
Around now, a very good career opportunity came B's way. It would mean moving countries, and either admitting his dad in a hospice or taking him with us. We chose the hospice route, based on a lot of reasoning and practical thinking and advice of his geriatrician.
Over the weeks, his condition had gotten worse. He seemed duller than usual, and had stopped eating/drinking -or rather - had stopped swallowing what was being fed to him. All the signs were there. Just as we planned to admit him to the hospice for a "trial", he passed away peacefully one morning, almost as if he didn't want to put us through this experience or go through it himself.
The dust has settled a bit. I realise how much I miss my father-in-law. Even in his stage of advanced dementia, there was some sort of strength we drew from having him with us. It's very hard to explain. And there was the daily routine that he was an integral part of. B derived satisfaction in making him his first cup of coffee every morning. I wished him good morning and good night unfailingly, and upon returning from a tiring office commute every evening, would enjoy seeing him the first thing as I entered- sitting with him, holding his hands and asking him how he was doing.
The finality of death is truly cruel. I cannot even imagine how B and his brother deal with it, having lost their mother quite tragically over 10 years ago. How we take the presence of a person for granted, and how, one day, they are just snuffed out. A weird, selfish feeling where we are willing to accept the n-1th day in the face of this, despite all the hardship that person may have been facing. Its a very helpless and humbling feeling.
B and his brother were brave and stoic through all of it- I do believe the rituals and ceremonies had some therapeutic effect. Family rallied around us, and B's closest buddies stood by him, with him, through all of it. To use my dad's words- theirs was an "unparalleled" kind of friendship he had never seen elsewhere. I am so thankful they were there, because I don't think I could have been there for him in the way that they were - partly because I was grieving too, and also because of the way these rituals are structured- starting with the cremation of the body until the 13 day rites- there is very clear gender separation and women-folk don't participate in most of it. I did not argue or resist that.
A new phase begins now. B's left to begin his new job in a new city. I will be joining him in a couple months. It's all exciting, although tinged with the sorrow of losing his dad, we have to be thankful that we didn't make the move with lingering thoughts, worries and concerns behind us.