Doug Bruns

A Morning Visit

In Death, Family on May 3, 2013 at 6:00 am

I visit my father every morning. Two weeks ago I found him sitting in his desk chair, back to me, upright, but listing. I called, Good morning. I got no response. I approached and looked at his face. His eyes were open, though his lids heavy. He did not respond to my voice. I thought, fighting panic: This is how it should be. Dressed, at his desk, no effort, no struggle. Gone. But he was not gone. I detected his chest moving. I rested my hands on his shoulders. I called to him, softly. Still no response. I stroked his back, the bones now protruding, symbols of only hard things remaining. I activated the sensor he wears around his neck and as I waited I talked to him, telling him it was going to be okay, that I was with him. No response. Help arrived and as the four of us lifted him into his bed his eyes focused and he said, “To what do I owe this attention?” We laughed.

I spent the day with him, at his bedside, and a measure of me hoped that he would be spared further suffering. But as the day wore on, he recovered. I fed him. I read to him. I held his hand.  Late in the day, I left him sleeping. I told the receptionist that I was leaving. She said they would check on him. When I returned a few hours later, he was in his chair, dressed, and trying to figure out his TV remote. We watched a bit of Deadliest Catch together.

The body fails us when we most desire otherwise. And, conversely, it stubbornly marches on when we have perhaps arrived at exhaustion and long for rest. The final act of existence is the release of breath–just as the first act was the gasp for it. There is nothing within our control, but for the thoughts in our head and even those, most precious and of our own design, run wild through the caverns of consciousness.  We carry on together.

  1. Beautiful, doug.

  2. I’m so emotional right now 😦 … absolutely touching

  3. So glad he’s O.K. for now. At first I thought, as you did, that he was gone!

  4. I have tears in my eyes… this is touching, beautiful.

  5. In addition to a touching account of your experience with your Dad, you have eloquently expressed truths about our human complexity. Would love to see this on the last page of the NYT Magazine, “Lives” section for a broader audience to share. Thank you and best wishes to your Dad.

  6. This post evokes so many feelings in me; many of them ineffable and unsettling. Glad your father is okay now.

    Don’t quite remember who said this (and I am sure there are many who echo this thought), but I read somewhere that the only philosophy in our lives is to die well. This post and the one about your parents talking for hours on the night before your mother died, reminded me of that nugget of wisdom. Comfort, you said in that post about your reaction of their last night together. And I thought it was the best use of the word I had come across.

    Best wishes, Doug!

    • Greetha ~ Good morning and thank you for your comments. I appreciate your kind words and thoughtful comments. It was Montaigne who said that to philosophize is to learn how to die. My father has never studied philosophy–but he knows how to “philosophize,” if that makes sense. My daily visit with him has become my mantra and I am trying to learn from him as much as I can while I can.

      Thanks again, you’ve warmed my heart.

I welcome your comments. Thanks for reading.

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