This evening my friend with Alzheimer's disease passed away. Fortunately, I was not called upon to make any decisions, as nature seemed to take its course. He fell into a coma three days ago and I'm very happy that the staff were able to keep him comfortable as he slowly slipped away. As I spent part of each day with him I know this was so. When I left the hospital this evening his breathing rate was high but not distressed. I put my hand on his forehead and squeezed his shoulder but there was no response. I did not expect to see him again and indeed just two hours later the nurse called with the news. Thus my custodial job is done for this man.
So let me tell you a little about him. He was born in Toronto in 1923, son of a pharmacist who sadly lost his pharmacy during the years of the Great Depression. He went from high school into the Canadian Air Force and served several years as a mechanic, at first in England and then in Germany.
After discharge from the Air Force he studied Pharmacy in Ontario and eventually went to the University of Saskatchewan to earn a degree in the subject. There he met the woman who was to later become his wife although they did not marry until they were 35 years old. He continued his education in Pharmacy with a Master's degree at the University of Toronto and finally, at the University of Purdue, earned a PhD in Pharmacognosy, which is the study of medicines derived from natural sources.
Then he was able to marry his love who had been his instructor in Pharmacy in Saskatchewan and after a year in North Carolina they returned to Canada in 1960 to take up positions in the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of British Columbia . In 1961 I came to Vancouver and worked at the Faculty and thus they entered my life, with his wife becoming one of by best friends. In fact she always called herself my big sister for she was 12 years older.
When she died of a brain tumour in 1986, my friend took early retirement for he could not bear to go by her former office every day. Childless and with no relatives, he became part of my family and I was his "next of kin". He spent his time with his various interests until he was overtaken by Alzheimer's Disease, which I wrote about before.
He was a very formal man, such a contrast to his wife who was from the Prairies. He always wore a suit when he left the house, even to go to a doctor's appointment. He had a great sense of humour and was a very social man so the years after his wife died were not easy for him. He loved to cook until his disease prevented that and every year he made a Christmas cakes and gave them to his friends. Gardening was his joy but the disease took that from him too, however we hired a gardener to look after his garden and they became great friends until he left his house. He had many interests and he seemed to be a subscriber to many periodicals which I discovered when I started to help him sort out his affairs. He was also a very charitable man who gave money to many causes and to the various universities he had attended.
I am so grateful that he retained his good disposition throughout it all, for his caregivers all liked him and today as I was speaking with his aide she began to cry. She told me she had grown very fond of him. I am so grateful to the people at that facility for the wonderful care they gave this man. Even when I worked in the Acute Care Pavilion at the hospital I always said the people who worked in Extended Care were saints for the loving kindness and respect they showed towards these elderly residents. I thank them for making this man's dying process as comfortable as it could possibly be.
Peace be with you my friend, your journey is done.
Actually my job is not quite done as I do have tasks to finish this week. I know you will forgive my intermittent visits as I take care of these matters.