Writing Prompt #97 “Ktenology” March 8, 2015 – The Decision


The old man had been found that morning lying in a urine soaked bed, half starved, his rear end covered in bedsores.

It was luck that his neighbour had called in to see him knowing he was not well.

At the hospital they admitted him and sent him straight to intensive care.

Family had to be notified and it took some time. The neighbour did not know them, as he’d never seen any visit save for a grandson who had come by one Saturday afternoon.

It turned out the old man had a son and daughter who were located and asked to come to the hospital.

When they arrived they were at a loss as to what to do.

The neighbour produced a piece of paper signed by the old man which set out the contingency plan should the old man become incapacitated.

The son and daughter read the message as the ward nurse entered the room. The message read that in the event of a heart attack or life-threatening event, the old man did not want to be revived.

The son and daughter stood by the old man.

They read the letter and recognised his signature.

In their hearts they both hoped that this time would never arrive. Since they had little to do with their father they anticipated that one-day he would pass away and they would be spared the decision that confronted them.

The ward nurse needed to have them agree with their father’s request or decide on a different outcome.

Looking at their father they saw an old and feeble man whose every breath was now laboured. The doctors had told them that it was likely their father had suffered a stroke and his quality of life was going to be marginal.

They both wanted his suffering to end. Making their father comfortable was the best they could offer him at this stage.

They sat beside the old man as his life ebbed away. They spoke of a life they wished at that time they could have made right, of disagreements and arguments that had led to long years of estrangement.

It seemed unfair to be robbed of that opportunity to make right with their dad at the end of his life.

At three in the morning the old man slipped away, his life ending with his son and daughter, once so distant from him, holding his hands as he entered the afterlife.

(One of the most confronting things about putting a ageing parent into hospital or a nursing home is having to go through the discussion with the nursing staff as to what to do in the event of a heart attack or life threatening event, and to make a decision. Thankfully for me my father was able to be part of the discussion and helped in agreeing to his end of life plan.)

Written for: https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/writing-prompt-97-ktenology-march-8-2015-2/

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21 Responses to Writing Prompt #97 “Ktenology” March 8, 2015 – The Decision

  1. This is a powerful gut-wrenching and compassionate piece Michael

  2. Lyn says:

    It’s sad when there are estrangements in families — especially between parents and children.
    My Dad died from a sudden heart attack one day while I was at school. When you’re fourteen, you think your parents are going to live forever. My Mum died in 1985. I had three children and was struggling to raise them on my own. Mum was in hospital after a fall and had developed pneumonia. The hospital phoned me at midnight to say she had passed away. I never really had a chance to say a proper goodbye. I have lots of memories though 🙂

    • My mother died suddenly too, about thirty years ago.
      Dad was on his last legs when I was with him as he died, sadly my brother and sister were not able to get there before he went. I remember finding the ‘talk’ about his dying plan very confronting.
      Thanks Lyn for stopping by.

  3. Gosh that is so sad. I had enough decisions when my mother died of cancer but thankfully not that one x

  4. That would be a difficult subject for most families but a necessary one. Very sad story Tommy.

  5. mj6969 says:

    A profoundly moving story that speaks of the need to address the reality many will face, despite the difficulties and challenges that may have to be overcome. Death may never be entirely predictable, but if peace and ease of mind for all involved, at the time, can be avoided, then perhaps its rather a choice most of us should face.

    Wonderfully written and compassionate Michael.

  6. RoSy says:

    I have days where I’m holding on to a miracle where my parents will live forever. But – I now that’s not going to happen. The reality is that death is inevitable for us all. I just don’t want to think about it. But – it probably does need to be a topic to visit. My parents have both told us what they want – I just would rather not go there now. I will wait until the time comes… 😦

    • Yes I understand what you saying RoSy. Like you I didn’t want to think about it either but when dad went into his nursing home it was one of the first conversations they had with us. Thankfully dad was able to be part of the decision. Sadly RoSy it’s out there waiting for us.

  7. mandy smith says:

    I believe the greatest gift a parent can give their adult child is information about last wishes and how to deal with the “afterwards”. I’ve seen the opposite happen so many times because a parent doesn’t want to be morbid or upset their child. When things aren’t right between parent/child, it can really create problems on so many levels. Your post was a very good reminder, Michael.

    • Thank you Mandy, at some point we are all going to face our own decisions. I was lucky as I said that my dad was able to be part of the final decision. I have told my kids what they are to do with me.

Please feel free to comment, I appreciate your thoughts.

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