My dad and I were very close. As a single parent, he raised me from the time I was twelve until I was nineteen, the age at which I left home. That year I moved from Denver to Los Angeles to explore the world. Dad remarried and we remained close. Over the years, I’d look forward to his visits to Los Angeles each March to celebrate his birthday and catch up. Because Dad was a church pastor, he used our special time together to share the word of God with me.
There was one birthday visit I’ll never forget. I decided to take Dad to Redondo Beach on a Wednesday afternoon. Hardly any people were around, and it was a beautiful day. The ocean was misty, and the moon had risen and was hanging above us in the sky. Dad and I walked along the beach for a while, until we found a comfortable spot to sit in the sand. Then, as we sat gazing at the water and listening to the calls of the seagulls and pelicans that were gracefully flying by, he began to talk to me about God’s love for humanity.
Pointing to one pelican slowly soaring high in the sky, silhouetted against the moon, Dad said, “Carolyn, do you see that pelican? Imagine if that beautiful bird had only one responsibility in life. What if it had to fly to the moon and drop off a single grain of sand that it was carrying in its pouch, and then it had to repeat this task until all the sand was removed from the face of the earth?” Looking directly at me, he asked, “How long do you think it would take?”
“It would take forever,” I answered.
“The love of God and my love for you are eternal,” he said. “Even after I’ve gone to glory, for as long as it would take a pelican to remove the sand from the earth a grain at a time, that’s how long my love will be with you.”
That was the first time I can recall Dad speaking with me about the prospect of his death. Of course, I didn’t really want to discuss it, and, in fact, I think I changed the subject. Being in my twenties then, death seemed far off. On some level, I felt that Dad would live forever and nothing bad could ever happen to him. But I also made a vow to God on that day that I’d always be there to take care of Dad if he needed me. Later on, I did my best to honor this promise.
My dad was my best friend, my hero and my adviser, and I hoped and prayed he’d be with me forever. The good times I had with him continued for the next thirty-three years, and there were many opportunities for us to discuss his end-of-life wishes. We did the best we could to prepare.
But when I became his caregiver, I discovered that knowing someone’s wishes is not enough. Even doing the necessary paperwork to ensure that end-of-life wishes will be fulfilled does not always protect an elderly parent or a loved one, particularly if other family members disagree with the arrangements that have been made. Even if you try to do the right things and do your best to prepare for every possible scenario that might arise, like the chronic illness of a parent and the costs associated with it, you can never be too prepared.
About the Books
In 2011 Brent wrote her first book on the subject, Why Wait? The Baby Boomers’ Guide to Preparing Emotionally, Financially and Legally for a Parent’s Death.
And now she has written a follow-up book, which contains new and updated information and provides a road map to guide the family caregiver, whether he or she is the adult child of an aging parent or another family member who is providing care. The new book entitled: The Caregiver’s Companion, Caring for Your Loved One Medically, Financially and Emotionally While Caring for Yourself. Publisher: Harlequin (January 27, 2015)
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