Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Thanks to Everyone

My friend, AMG, aged 19, in his Royal Canadian Air Force uniform

Thanks to you all for your best wishes and condolences.

In fact my friend's dying was more of a blessing for him, for he certainly had a very low quality of life, well by our standards. Although he was pretty cheerful and at ease in his own way and I am truly grateful for that.

For me, my friend had passed away a long time ago. Earlier I did not mind that he did not remember my name or called me by some other name, for he always smiled and I felt that he knew me. But when he no longer did that, when he wheeled past me without any spark of recognition I knew that my friend was really "gone".

So it was more a relief than a sorrow that he was finally at peace. What a journey it has been, as together he and I dealt with this disease. Nine long years. At first he refused to admit that there was anything wrong and being a highly intelligent and well educated man he developed coping mechanisms. I was rarely in his house as he came mostly to mine or we met elsewhere at social gatherings. However he fell and broke his jaw and I was called to the hospital. In this different environment it was obvious that there was a problem.

When I took him home, what a shock. His house was absolute chaos, with papers and unopened letters and piles of unread periodicals everywhere and notes stuck on everything. This man was not coping with everyday life. Then I learned of his Alzheimer's Disease from his physician who had been advising him to get help but was being ignored. Slowly, tentatively, for he did not want to admit the problem nor accept help nor give up any control, we began to get his life more organized with outside caregivers and his lawyer drew up documents giving me care of his person and medical decisions and a trust company care of his financial affairs.

Well I've written about this previously and here so I won't bore you with more. Today I am writing his obituary for the papers. Luckily many tasks have been taken over by others as the trust company is his executor and at the moment of his death, my representation agreement was no longer valid. I thought I would have to do more now but it seems that many tasks will be done by the executor and I have contacted a person at the university who will notify all the correct people and arrange for the lowering of the flag in his honour.

There will be no burial or service as those were his wishes. But I believe that some closing ceremony is required on a death for those who are left, so in a couple of weeks I will give an afternoon tea in his honour for his neighbours and colleagues. Perhaps we will swap stories of the man we knew for so many years and remember the fine person of former days. Many of them had not seen him for a very long time, as sadly only myself and one other female friend continued to visit him. Well I do understand that, for there was no joy in it, not for either party.

Today I took flowers and boxes of chocolates for the staff who had looked after him for these past 15 months. Unfortunately the ward is under quarantine regulations for they have now a confirmed outbreak of Norwalk virus, so they will not be able to enjoy the chocolates until later. In fact the virus probably started the dying process for my friend since he had minor symptoms for a few days before he went into the coma. I think his body just gave up the will to live and you know, all in all, it was not a bad way to go.


Ellee Seymour said...

I'm so sorry to hear this, especially the part played by the Norfolk virus. I send you my heartfelt condolences.

Phil A said...

JMB, Sorry for your troubles. I knew someone who had Alzheimer's. They were otherwise physically strong and healthy, but eventually it seemed there was simply no one left at home anymore - and then that physically healthy shell just seemed to pack up and shut down.

Nunyaa said...

I asked the angels to keep a watchful eye, on you on this a sad day,
The answer I got was simply,
they were watching anyway.
They say there is a new angel, who is being fitted with new wings, and when he gets to heaven will do such wonderful things. Bless you JMB for being who you are :-)

Political Umpire said...

Very moving posts on this JMB.

Best wishes


rlbates said...

JMB, what a great friend you are! So sorry for your loss.

Janice Thomson said...

A very touching post today too JMB. Thanks for sharing this experience with us. Take care my friend.

Tai said...

Take care....

CherryPie said...

I think the memorial tea will be a wonderful tribute for your friend, I am sure he will be looking down and enjoying it with you :-)

I think Nunyaa's words are beautiful, they have brought a tear to my eye!

Crushed said...


I suppose it must have been more of a release from a burden than anything else.

Life can be crueler than death.

Dr.John said...

You were a gopod friend while he lived and now you go that extra mile so his friends can have a time to remember.

Carver said...

Dear JMB, I love the photograph of your friend as a young man. Beautiful post and what a great idea to have a tea in his honor. I think that's a lovely idea for a closing ceremony. Take care of yourself, Carver

leslie said...

As I said before, Alzheimers is a wicked horrid disease, one that my own mother suffered. I will watch for the obituary. Not knowing his name, I will figure it out from the initials you gave here. I always read the obits - as my own Dad always said, "If I don't see my own name there, then I'm still alive." Just a bit of humour. :)

jmb said...

Thanks Ellee, I think the virus may have been just a little push to the process.

Phil, Alzheimer's is the most terrible disease and it was awful to watch my friend go through it.

Thanks Nunyaa, I'm sure what you say is true.

Thanks PU, it was a blessing for him in the long run.

Thanks Ramona, he had no one so I stepped in to help.

Thanks Janice, it's a relief really. He was long gone in spirit.

Thanks Tai.

Cherrypie, I will get it organized in a week or so.

Thanks Crushed, indeed it was a blessing for both of us I think. He really lived a very narrow life with no pleasure at all.

Thanks Dr John, he had no family so I had to be that for him.

Thanks Carver, he was very proud to have been in the Air Force and told many stories from that time.

Thanks Leslie, hopefully the weekend. Many people I know read the obits, but I never do.

Thanks to everyone for visiting and commenting.

Liz said...

It must have been so hard for this intelligent man to be aware of the disease that was destroying his mind. And hard for those who watched.

A tea party is a lovely idea. When my cousin died her husband wanted a very private funeral. I asked some time later if I could organise a thanksgiving service with music (she was involved in choirs and singing groups) and he said no, so for many of us, there was no real closure.

God be with you.

Phil A said...

JMB, I don’t know if you would be interested in this, but after touching on it in conversation in relation to your posts with M we thought it would do no harm to bring it to your attention and it may be of some utility.

Also I am 'told off' ;-) for arguing with you over the quote.

Mauigirl said...

JMB, just read the various posts about your friend with Alzheimer's. My sympathies for your loss. I know what you mean, though, that it is as if he had been gone for a long time already. I had the same experience with my father, who died in 2005 after being in a nursing home for a year. I think the idea of having a tea and reminiscing with friends and colleagues about his life is a lovely tribute to him.

My mother and I put together a collage of pictures of my father for the viewing at the funeral home, and I got a lot out of just showing people the pictures and pointing out the various times in his life that they represented. It made him seem more alive than he had been in the last years of his life.

You did a wonderful thing for him, you were a true friend, to be his caregiver and advocate. It must be so hard for people in that situation who have no one to advocate for them and help them be cared for.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

He seems to have been a very gentle man and rest assured, jmb, you did all and more than anyone could. He is at peace now.