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.)