Death: How Quickly It Happened

My brother-in-law’s dad, Henry, died this morning.

Death is nearly always sad. This is no exception.

Henry’s grandson, Matt, is getting married this weekend. It’s a shame these two events will be forever linked.

What strikes me about Henry’s death is how quickly it happened. A month ago he was living by himself in Florida. In his late 80s, he was still self-sufficient.

Then he fell.

No one knows for sure, but falling seems to be a symptom of larger breakdowns, not the cause.

It became clear Henry needed help and monitoring. They brought him to Milwaukee; the same assisted living place as my folks. He was there very briefly.

The remainder of Henry’s life, just a few weeks, was spent going from hospital to rehab facility and back. He was losing weight rapidly. His speech became less clear and at times not speech at all.

Last weekend Henry’s sons and their wives went to Florida to begin the process of closing his life there. My niece, Melissa, was put in charge.

Here’s what she wrote in her blog last Saturday:

received a call from Grandpa. He was really confused. “Where are you? I don’t know where I am. Where’s your Grandpa? Where’s Jeff?” I told Grandpa I’d be over soon, but it would take me about an hour, as I was way out West for a friend’s party. I would also have Jeff, my dad, call him. “How will you find me? I don’t even know where I am! Where will he call me?” I assured him that he was safe and I knew where he was. I’d be there soon.

“He looks like he’s dying,” my sister said on the phone yesterday. And so he did this morning.

Death is more than your heart stopping. Henry died, today but he stopped living a few weeks ago. It must have been very frustrating for him as his brain no longer performed as it had for so long.

We’re all sad to see him go.

As a grownup you understand there are times death itself is the least bad outcome.

7 thoughts on “Death: How Quickly It Happened”

  1. That’s very much the way my dad went. I even told him that he should go whenever he was ready.

    Always sad, but not in situations like this for the person who’s gone, only for those of us remaining.

  2. As a former Hospice Nurse, this scenario is so familiar….families are often in denial when we (Hospice Professionals)explain how fast a person can decline and die….sometimes only a matter of days or even hours….Death is an inevitable stop on OUR life Journey ….it can be beautiful, but most always sad…my heartfelt condolences to all the family….especially the Bride & Groom….

  3. There’s a difference between brain functioning and consciousness. Cognition may break down, but the consciousness continues. My father went quickly. For several years his cognition was declining. Then in a month he was gone. I do believe that his consciousious had already left a few weeks before

  4. Life can change very quickly, that is for sure. It’s amazing how common a death of an elderly person is linked to a life event. My friend just lost her mother-in-law, also a quick decline in a matter of weeks but then, she was 92. The morning of the wake, my friends daughter gave birth. It was an odd wake…”So sorry for your loss. Congratulations on your new grandchild.” Perhaps it is that way sometimes, especially with the old. Unplanned by them the message still is that life goes on. I also believe they are with us at times in a different form – my friend’s MIL rejoiced in the birth of a new great grandson – your nephew’s father will “attend” the wedding.

  5. Some 50+ years ago, my girlfriend’s father in law-to be, died just 2 days before the wedding—had a heart attack. His widow said—“go on with the wedding”—we’ll take care of the funeral, afterwards. It was hard, but they all went on with life. They knew he was there in spirit.

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