A good end;
a guide to dying parents.

Lessons Learned II

Lessons Learned IIMy husband summed up his thoughts in the last Caregiver’s Diary on what he has learned about death and the dying over the last two years, as he lost his mother and father.  My father, Gordon, passed away on October 27, 2011, and has also been...

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Lessons Learned

Lessons LearnedI have been chronicling the deaths of my mother, my father-in-law and my father for the last 2 years. I have learned some things about death during that time, and it’s appropriate that I share them here.Dying Is Hard WorkIt takes effort to die. Getting...

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A Golden Exit

A Golden Exit“Happy New Year! You made it to 2013”. Donald Corbett, my widowed 89 year old father said “I wish I hadn’t”. “Don’t worry, I’m sure you won’t see 2014”. “Oh God, I hope not” Dad said.There had been a swift change on the care front. We had convened a...

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Another Aftermath

Another AftermathStories and memories of my widowed 89 year old father started pouring in by e-mail and phone the day after he died, prompted by a posting on Facebook of a lovely picture of him in his last weeks, still smiling and still hale.Many of the messages had...

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A Very Difficult Conversation

A Very Difficult ConversationAn e-mail from youngest sister late at night to youngest brother and me. Our 89 year old widowed father had fallen again; presented himself to the night nurse covered in blood, then denied it had happened the next day. Could we do a...

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Patience

PatienceI’m not my 89 year old widowed father’s caregiver, I’m just an occasional visitor, and a voice at the end of the phone. Youngest sister is his caregiver, and she sees him frequently and, until recently, took him out for lunch. What she has in abundance is...

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Dying In Good Health

Dying In Good HealthMy widowed 89 year old father called the other day. Youngest sister was coming over for lunch, he was dressed. I said “You sound chipper today, you must be feeling pretty good”. He said “Oh, I’m alright, but I just wish I weren’t on this earth...

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Dad’s War

Dad’s WarMy 89 year old widowed father was studying organ at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto when the war broke out. He enlisted as soon as he could. He was 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 130 pounds, scarcely the stuff of either bomber crew or front line infantry....

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Thanksgiving With Dad

Thanksgiving with DadThe weather Thanksgiving weekend was cold and wet. Stiff wind out of the west, where the rollers come from. Jamie and I decided not to sail to Niagara, but to drive. We were going to have Thanksgiving Dinner with my widowed 89 year old father at...

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My Father, The Carny

My Father, The CarnyMy widowed father, now 89, has returned to his roots, in a way. He now lives at Serenity Towers, a luxurious assisted living place in Niagara, just blocks from the old Lakeside Amusement Park in Port Dalhousie.He got his start there as a carny...

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Mission Accomplished

Mission Accomplished“It’s enormous!”. That was my widowed 89 year old father speaking to oldest brother on the phone. He was sitting an a navy blue deck chair on the patio of the Niagara Yacht Club, cane between his knees, finally looking at my new boat.I had wanted...

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A Chequered Career

A Chequered CareerMy widowed father, now 89 and living in an assisted living facility in Niagara, has had an interesting life, right from the start.First of all, his mother was probably not his mother. She was a grand Toronto lady to whom the concept of giving birth...

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An Old Sea Dog

An Old Sea DogI pick up my new boat tomorrow. I took it out on sea trials this week and got acquainted. It’s BIG, ocean-liner big, to me, who’s used to a 22 foot sloop that sailed like a fat Laser. This boat takes a long weekend, and half a township to turn, and when...

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One More Birthday

One More BirthdayMy father had his 89th birthday last week, and it didn’t make him very happy. We were sitting in a faux English pub in Niagara eating clammy fries and mystery burgers, and he burst out “Why am I still here? What’s the point? I’m too feeble to walk,...

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Four Button-Down Shirts

Four Button Down ShirtsI'm the youngest son, the second sibling to have an Old Testament name in a White Anglo Saxon Family. This is my first entry for the Caregivers Blog.  It’s my turn, as I have been recently visiting my father on my own over the past couple...

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Fathers’ Day

Father’s DayWe never celebrated Father’s Day in my family (or Mother’s Day). We thought of them as “Hallmark Holidays”, invented to sell greeting cards. Besides, every day is Father’s Day, right?  My widowed dad is 88, and getting frail, though, so there aren’t...

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Another Funeral

Another FuneralI just got back from my Godmother’s funeral. It wasn’t a particularly sad occasion,  Godmother had lived a long rich life, the weather was beautiful, it was one of Toronto’ finest old churches and it was full. Former Prime Minister John Turner, an...

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Summer’s Coming

Summer’s ComingAs I’ve explained, youngest sister in Niagara is my widowed 88 year old father’s real caregiver, I’m just a visitor and a chronicler. With that, here’s youngest sister in her own words:“Hi siblings, here is another update on your dear old Dad. Since...

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A Grand Affair

A Grand AffairAt the end of our last installment, youngest sister was about to visit our 88 year old widowed father to tell him that no real estate agent would list his now empty home in the Maritimes for what he was asking, and he’d have to drop his price by at least...

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Travel Plans

Travel PlansMy widowed 88 year old father recently sent one of his “Letters from Serenity Towers” to the family. In it he talked fondly of traveling, and mentioned two trips he thought he might like to take - one out west to the Rocky Mountains where oldest brother...

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Life At Serenity Towers

Life At Serenity TowersYoungest sister is my widowed 88 year old father’s caregiver; I’m just an occasional visitor. Here’s a report in her words:“So my dad has been at Serenity Towers for almost four months. The place is gradually filling up, getting new residents...

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Dad Perks Up

Dad Perks Up. Youngest sister has sent us this progress report from Niagara on my widowed 88 year old father:“Hi all,I wanted to advise that I am away from March 8 to 17 and so Dad won't have my daily phone calls and every second day visit. I encourage you to keep in...

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Spring Is Here

Spring Is HereI went to see my 88 year old widowed father at Serenity Towers, his rather splendid retirement home in Niagara. He’s getting along better there, although he still complains of deadly boredom (this in spite of being invited to join several rather...

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More Frome Serenity Towers

More From Serenity TowersMy widowed 88 year old father has settled in to his new digs at an upscale retirement home in Niagara. I’ll let him tell us more…“It’s now Wednesday evening, January 18th. Just back from dinner with Cy, another lady whose name I forget, and...

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To All The Family

To All The FamilyMy widowed 88 year old father writes from his fancy retirement home in Niagara:“Youngest sister has been wonderful at getting me here, seeing that I am comfortable, hanging pictures and arranging all the furniture in this cosy little suite.However, in...

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My New Life in Ontario

My New Life In OntarioNow that my widowed 88 year old father has settled into his new retirement residence, he has taken up writing a journal, something he always sent us from whatever small town my parents had moved to. I’m going to let Dad tell his story,...

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Visiting Dad in His New Home

Visiting Dad in His New HomeMy widowed 88 year old father had survived the trip from his now-empty house in the Maritimes to his splendid new retirement residence in Niagara. There had been a flu quarantine (always a concern in a retirement home - a real room clearer)...

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Coming Home For Christmas

Coming Home For ChristmasI have detailed in these pages how my widowed father, alone for a year in an empty house far away in the Maritimes, had balked at moving home to Ontario, where most of his children were, until he had sold his house, something he wasn’t very...

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Home At Last

Home At LastI just got an e-mail from youngest sister, with a one-word subject line - “settled”. It was the best news I had received in years, and a huge weight slid off my back like a glacier. Youngest sister and my recently widowed 88-year old father had just...

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The Executor’s Checklist

The Executor’s ChecklistMy wife’s father died two weeks ago - here is her account of winding up his affairs.What I think about all these  ‘tasks’ – the canceling, terminating, handing in of all things that made Dad Dad – is that if I do them all well enough, then...

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The Flags of My Father-In-Law

The Flags of my Father-in-LawIt was an extraordinary moment. I was driving home to Toronto along the 401, into the setting sun, on a bright November day. I had just seen the clouds blow by, the leaves rustle and heard a horse neigh in the neighbouring field as we...

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A Deal Not Done

A Deal Not DoneMy 88 year old father sounded very far away and lonely on the phone. “I wish I could be out of here by Christmas. I want to be somewhere there’s people. I’m so lonely and bored here”. He’s  been living in a half-empty house for a year since my...

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Dad Drives Me Nuts

Dad Drives Me NutsMy widowed 88 year old father doesn’t understand real estate. He and my mother only ever bought three houses in their lifetimes, and paid full price for each. Dad doesn’t understand why someone would offer you less than you had clearly asked for your...

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The Boomer Leonardo

The Boomer LeonardoThis week marked the end of a period of remarkable and unique American innovation. One of the most brilliant men of the 20th and 21st century died of cancer, far too young.Steve Jobs was born in 1955, at the height of the baby boom, a year after I...

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A Battle Never Won

A Battle Never WonThis is not going to be another eulogy for Jack Layton. I admired him, and his death was cruelly early and untimely. It was the manner of his going that I want to address.During that awful press conference in mid-July when he announced he was...

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Defying The Odds

Defying The OddsWhile my father has been learning about real estate at a late age, my wife’s father has had his own adventures. In her words:My Dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer on December 1, 2010.  He was treated with radiation in February, because, at...

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Driving With Dad

Driving With DadMy 88 year old father-in-law took his biennial driving exam recently and passed with flying colours. He was elated. A navigator in bomber command during the war, he flew night after night through the flak-filled skies of Germany. Piloting a brand new...

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Moving My Father

Moving My FatherMy recently widowed 87 year old father put his house on the market shortly after my mother died last year, with a vague plan of selling it and moving to a bungalow my youngest sister owned in Niagara, close to most of his children.He doesn’t like real...

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Moving My Father (Cont.)

Moving My Father (cont.)The breakthrough came sooner than I thought. My recently widowed 87 year old father called just after lunch from the Maritimes and said “I’ve listed the house!”.It had taken months to get here. When my mother died last fall, he just wanted to...

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Another Parent

Another Parent Jamie is one of my oldest friends. We used to hang out together when it was all sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, and we’ve stayed tight, apart from a few years, since then. Jamie doesn’t come from my background, he grew up in the projects and hung with...

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Mothers’ Day Memories

Mother’s Day MemoriesIt was Mother’s Day a year ago when my mother last visited Ontario. I went to see her down in Niagara at her sister’s house, to take her out to lunch. It was a cold May, everybody in ski jackets and toques against the chill wind. The Burlington...

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Another Journey Begins

Another Journey BeginsMy wife has been dealing with her own father’s esophageal cancer. In her own words:The first time you hear the word ‘Palliative’ it gives you a start.  My Dad and I heard it the first time after his radiation treatments for esophageal cancer...

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A Problem That Can’t Be Solved

A Problem That Can’t Be Solved“The reason why I am writing this is that I cannot understand why I am still alive and all these great people are dead. I really don't want to live much longer. Why?  Please don't think that I want to do away with myself. I wouldn't...

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Family Celebrations

Family CelebrationsMy wife’s family gets together three times a year - Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. At Christmas, my wife and I have all the family over to our house, because it’s big and central, and we’ve always done it there.But for Easter and Thanksgiving,...

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Another Family, Another Story

Another Family, Another storyYoungest sister’s partner has aged parents, too. Here’s the start of her story:My parents are cottagers. They bought their own island nearly 40 years ago after sharing a family cottage with parents and brothers. In fact, my mother has...

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Probably For The Best

Probably For The BestYoungest sister reports her latest thoughts on our recently widowed 87 year old father:Six weeks have now passed since my last visit to see my father. This was the fifth trip I had made down to the Maritimes since my mother became ill and the...

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My Father, Myself

My Father, My SelfI spoke to my recently widowed 87-year old father this afternoon, a call I make every three or four days. There’s a narrow window of opportunity to reach him, between his trip to the post office, his lunch, his nap and his dinner, prepared for him by...

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Plans Change, Again…

Plans Change…AgainYoungest sister just got back from a week with my recently widowed 87 year old father in the Maritimes. The point of the trip (much planning had gone into it, it was the fifth since my mother’s illness) was to finalize arrangements for the sale of...

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A Little Good News

A Little Good NewsI have been following the story of my recently widowed 87-year old father and his children’s struggle to get him back home to Ontario. Meanwhile, my wife has been dealing with her own 88-year old widowed father’s recent diagnosis of esophageal...

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The Cancer Years

The Cancer YearsI have been sharing the story of my 87 year old father’s journey from the recent death of my mother from cancer, through his (and his children’s) grieving and on to his upcoming move to Ontario, where he will live in a bungalow owned and renovated for...

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Clean Sweep

Clean SweepMy recently widowed 87 year old father has five children; oldest brother, who lives out west; older brother, me, living in Toronto; younger sister, also living out west; youngest sister in Niagara and youngest brother, also here in Toronto. He is leaving...

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A New Year

A New YearMy recently widowed 87 year old father has five children; oldest brother, who lives out west; older brother, me, living in Toronto; younger sister, also living out west; youngest sister in Niagara and youngest brother, also here in Toronto. He is leaving his...

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Plans Change

Plans Change“White tablecloths”. My father’s voice, somewhat dispirited, came over the phone. “What?” I asked. “White tablecloths at breakfast, white tablecloths at lunch. I like to read the paper when I have breakfast”.He was talking about the grand assisted living...

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A New Home

A New HomeThere’s one in every family. Usually female, usually the youngest. The one who will take care of the old folks. My youngest sister is that person in our family. In addition to being deeply concerned with my parents’ welfare, she is talented, organized, good...

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Driven To Distraction

Driven To DistractionIn the aftermath of my Mother’s death, while awaiting her memorial service,  my wife reported that problems had cropped up in her family.  My wife’s father has lived in a retirement home in Mississauga for 7 years.  A widower, he is...

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A Grand Affair

A Grand AffairTwo weeks ago, we had the wake for my mother, who died in September after a quick battle with cancer. She wasn’t religious, definitely not sentimental, and wanted no truck with memorial services or funerals. She had also cut herself off from her family...

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Aftermath

AftermathMy father wasn’t aware my mother had died until the next morning, while my brothers and sisters all learned of it within minutes. He had taken his car into the garage the night before, so he couldn’t get to the hospital in any event, and he took out his...

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Dealing With Dad

Dealing with DadMy father is a musician. He has been the organist and choirmaster at the Anglican church in every one of the half a dozen small towns my parents have lived in since he retired. He’s also imperious, arrogant, a heavy drinker, and completely helpless...

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No Grieving, Please

No Grieving, PleaseMy mother was taken away in an ambulance to the local hospital this evening, the first time she’s been there since she was diagnosed with terminal abdominal cancer six months ago. At 87, she had long ago decided against heroic measures in the event...

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Seamless Care

Seamless CareMy mother called me in a panic on Canada Day “You’re doing too much! We’re getting calls and appointments from people we’ve never heard of! You can’t take care of us by phone from Toronto!”. She had recently been diagnosed with cancer, and I had spent the...

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A Good End

A Good EndMy mother is a study in contradictions. An avid churchgoer, she has no discernable spiritual or religious convictions. Deeply loved by her friends and children, yet emotionally reserved, she shows affection sparingly. A child of the depression, yet content...

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