Sunday, January 27, 2013

Let's Treasure Time at the End of Life

On January 15 the Quebec Government released a report outlining a strategy to circumvent the laws against euthanasia in Canada's criminal code. The move is a sad statement on our society. Watching our loved ones weaken and age is a painful part of life, but we must realize that even as our bodies and minds deteriorate (1) we still have a purpose and (2) we can be happy even with limited abilities.

I thought of this at my grandfather's funeral last Thursday. My Opa passed away 4 years after suffering a stroke that made him require constant nursing care. After his passing a number of people including my family members said, "it's better now, he should have died 4 years ago." I disagree I believe he was a great comfort to my Oma and that he experienced much happiness. Below is a Eulogy that I delivered before the Mass:
I never really got to experience Opa in the prime of his life, but some early memories stand out. When I was young, I remember sleeping overnight at Oma and Opa’s and was awakened in the morning to Opa shouting for everyone to get up for chores. Even Aunt Beatrix and Uncle George jumped at the sound of his voice!

Fridays seemed to be our day to visit Oma and Opa. I know this because there was always fish for dinner. Oma and Opa’s faith was shown at mealtimes, we didn’t just bless the food, we prayed an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be, sometimes there might even have been a litany of the saints!
As an adult, I was touched that Oma and Opa travelled from Strathroy to Toronto to attend the Easter Vigil Mass when I was received into the Catholic Church, and that they visited us in Fergus shortly after our wedding.

Mostly, Opa was silent, but his silence spoke volumes when backed up by his hard work and service to his family. I thank God for all of the gifts he gave us through Opa, especially for the past four years where I got to know Opa personally.

I have no doubt that Opa was frustrated by the effects of his stroke, and that being separated from Oma hurt him deeply, but I believe he was happy. In that first year, we had opportunities to walk with him, we were there as support but he carried a lot of his own weight. Opa’s determination and character shone through.

In one visit, my wife Carolynne sat with Opa at the piano and I was impressed how he willingly played the keys and participated in the music.

I know he appreciated all his visitors and the staff at the nursing home in part because he was excited to let us know that Nancy Verberg had started working with him. Nearly every time we visited him he would smile and say something, usually about the weather or the crops. At Oma and Opa’s 60th wedding anniversary last spring, again I saw Opa perk up when new people came in to greet them, and every time Oma opened a card he would lean over to look at it. He was very happy that day.

Last summer I brought Oma to visit Opa, he was lying in bed and we mostly just sat there for the first 20 minutes, but then they had a lengthy and intimate conversation. They stared tenderly at each other. It was a wonderful opportunity to see how much they loved each other, and an honour just to be there. At the end of the visit Opa asked if Oma was going to be late for cards, still concerned about her happiness before his own.

The last time we saw Opa was in November. He seemed to enjoy looking at pictures and held on tight to my hand as we left. He sure had a good grip.

I was recently introduced to the prayer “May the all powerful Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death.” I’m sure during the time that Opa had to be alone in his thoughts, God spoke to him and gave him that peace. Rest in Peace Opa.


Anonymous said...

"January 15 the Quebec Government released a report outlining a strategy to circumvent the laws against euthanasia in Canada's criminal code"

It would be nice if the P.O.S politicians that pursue this and those low life Quebecers that voted for them PERSONALLY get to recieve the benifits of this legislation in their old age (or SOONER if there is any justice in the world).

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