Tuesday, January 09, 2007

When death comes

I visited with my father today. While I don’t visit as frequently as I should, perhaps, I do try to get out (meaning to the retirement village where he lives) on a fairly frequent basis. At 87, he is in wonderfully good health and, as they say, in complete possession of all his faculties. I know it frustrates him when he can’t pull a word up as quickly as he would like out of his mental memory banks, but neither can I.

He has always been handy with things mechanical. When my mother died almost sixteen years ago, one of the things my husband and I did was buy my father a word processor. He had talked about writing up his memories in an autobiographical form, so a word processor seemed like a good way to facilitate that. He did set to work on his autobiography, vowing to “keep lying to a minimum.” As a former missionary, he has lived a full life with many experiences. One of the things that amazes me is his recall of place names and people names from decades ago.

It didn’t take long for him to outgrow the word processor and he got his first computer. He joined the Golden Mouse club at his retirement village and soon was learning the ways of the computer world. And like many seniors, he also moved into the cyber world of email.

When I visit, he frequently has a computer question. I certainly understand his reluctance to do some of the computer updating that needs to be done. Luckily for me, most of what he asks I can do. Several Christmases ago, he asked for help getting a new computer, and together we went shopping for his current desktop.

All this leads me to our conversation today. Understandably, my father is mindful of his mortality. His elder brother died almost two years ago, and my father knows that his life is not limitless. While we were talking today, he said that he would like me to do something upon his death. After my mother’s death, my father did remarry. I am very thankful for the wonderful wife he has, but she is not computer savvy. So, my father asked that, when he dies, would I please use his email list to inform all his email contacts of his death. It is a simple enough request for me to acquiesce to, and, of course, I did.

But I did think of that wonderful poem by Mary Oliver,
When Death Comes, and hence the title of this blog. Oh, I don’t know when my father will die, and frankly, it is not a morbid subject for me. I know we are all dust—as the words in Scripture remind us. And, my father is a Christian, so his death, when it occurs, is not cause for sorrow. I wish him as many more years of health and happiness as he has. And I will inform his email friends when he is gone.


Anonymous said...

I appreciate that you are there to help Dad with computer stuff. I've wished that I could be close by to help him get his picture on MSN Messenger, or set up his own blog, on which he could post excerpts from his memoirs. (I know he uses the word "memories"; but I like his first subtitle with the word "memoirs".) Thanks for being there, not just for computers, but for all the pieces of life that drift by.

I look back over the 20 years since he and mother moved to the Village: a kaleidoscope of events that they could not have predicted. I wonder what lies ahead for you, or for me, or for any of us. I pray we will receive the future with as much grace as our parents.

LauraHinNJ said...

My dad was a good bit younger, but took to computers and email just as avidly.

We never took the time in his last months to let people know that he was sick when he suddenly went *offline* and I sometimes think that all his friends out their in cyberspace must wonder what became of him.

It's a simple thing your dad has asked of you and I'm sure that doing it will be a comfort of some sort when the time comes.


Mary said...

A nice request from your Dad, and a very thoughtful one. He must admire his e-mail friends and care about them enough to think ahead. This post touched my heart as my Dad just moved into a nursing home in November. He's a stroke victim and has been partially paralyzed and wheel-chair bound for 11 years. I miss seeing him (as he lives in MD) but he doesn't miss me, due to dimentia or Alzheimer's. You have a very good outlook on death and dying. Thanks for the nice words.