Tuesday, March 16, 2010

On the Bright Side I Can Add the Title of Gravedigger to My Resume

I have other stories in mind that further detail what life is like for the uninsured or the working poor however, it is personal life that is forefront in my mind today. I spoke with my sister yesterday and she detailed how our father is slowly slipping away. He is weaker each day. He tried to go downstairs in his apartment building to the lobby where the residents gather to socialize but two neighbors had to practically carry him back. She told me he is sleeping all night and almost the entire day. He cancelled his day trip with the senior center, something he had been looking forward to for months.

He told my sister that he wants to try to make it past April first so he can keep his social security check. Of all the things to be concerned with...

She also mentioned that he was worried about leaving when my brother and I were not financially stable yet. My brother, while still very much in debt, has a full-time job and owns a home. I feel guilty he is using his last moments worrying about me. I work a low wage job and rent and have hardly any savings but I do know how to survive.

My brother reminded me when we last spoke that we were at the one month point past when the doctor broke the news to him. The doctor had said two weeks at one point and two months in another sentence. Nothing is concrete but this was the usual time frame he had witnessed. From my sisters description he is moving along quickly, something I didn't realize he would do. He has always been so tough and has defied doctors predictions in the past.

When he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer his then doctor said you are old and you will have to die of something. He then said you have a month to six months to live. Dad decided to move and try a different doctor. This doctor treated him as much as he could and gave him several more years. These last few years have been wonderful for my dad. He moved back to the city he grew up in, reconnected with friends and family, made new friends, played cards several times a week, went on several day trips and a cruise. The number of friends he has is just incredible. I truly believe he has enjoyed his latter years. I'm glad he didn't listen to that first doctor and he had options.

One of the things my dad did when my mom passed was take her ashes to the private family burial ground. He reconnected with her relatives and they welcomed him. The burial site is on top of a mountain in a long gone coal mining community. Her father died, crushed in a mining collapse when she was just three months old. Long story short she had a rough life and longed to know her real father. My dad buried her ashes and the old coal mining lantern that her father had on his hat when he was crushed which she had kept on display all her life.

This mountain top next to his wife is where my dad wants to be buried. He has the names and numbers ready for me when it is my time to reconnect with the relatives. He said they would be real glad to meet me. He said I would have to walk the remaining mile or two up the mountain because there wasn't a safe road anymore. So I am reminded that my next trip will be to a remote mountaintop where I will walk a long way, a shovel for a walking stick, my last trip with my father.


  1. WP: This one brought strong feelings and memories. My dad's family is out of Greenup County and we have two family cemeteries up on hilltops down there. When there is a burial in the one, there are teams of neighbor men (there are back in the hollers) waiting up the hillside to relay the coffin up because you can't do it any other way. You have triggered so much in me that I will probably write about this and link back to you.

    I'm thinking of you as your dad nears the end of his life journey. This is a beautiful post.


  2. April, thank you. I hope there are good memories in there somewhere. I certainly don't want to depress anyone.

  3. The lovely thing about these pending arrangements is that people who care will tend the gravesite.

  4. Monroe on a budget, yes they will. I haven't been there yet but my dad had pictures and it is very well tended despite the trek to get there.

  5. I just finished reading this post of yours & am blinking tears away. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    My father is long dead but I think of him every day.

    Anne in Cambridge