My poor father-in-law died last night. It was very surreal. He went into hospital a month ago with a sore back. Over the past number of years he had suffered from dementia and he was getting worse but he was relatively young (74) and he was walking and talking when he went into hospital. Last week the discharge co-ordinator was talking to the family about arrangements for him to get out this week.
Yesterday morning, my husband got a call about his father and he said to me that it sounded serious. “Let me know how it goes with the doctors,” I said. When I got out from a meeting at lunchtime, there was a message that things weren’t looking good. When I called, Mr. Waffle sounded a bit shell-shocked. His father had pneumonia and they were trying one last ditch effort with antibiotics. I still didn’t really think things were serious but about mid-afternoon, I got worried and called Mr. Waffle to ask whether I should come into the hospital. He didn’t feel it was necessary but said it would be nice so in I went. His father looked alright but was not conscious and was on oxygen. I rang my father (doctor) and my sister (has spent so much time in hospitals tending to aged parents that she has doctor like knowledge of geriatric issues). When I said he had aspiration (not aspirational as I thought – I was corrected – it’s not the kind of pneumonia you hope to get if you are upwardly mobile) pneumonia, they both thought it was not a good sign. My father is normally very optimistic about things but he was not on this occasion. “How long does he have, do you think?” I asked. “Find a senior ward sister and ask; they always know and they are always right,” he said. But my nerve failed me with the family gathered at the bed, I didn’t think I could ask. My sister texted that she reckoned 2-7 days. Even then, I didn’t think it was an immediate deathbed crisis.
We left in the late afternoon. That evening, about 9, there was a call from the hospital; his heart rate was very low. By the time the family arrived at 9.30, he was dead. The speed of it was shocking.
My sister-in-law flew in this morning from London. She and her husband planned a move to Dublin from London and had all been due to fly in tomorrow anyhow. Absolutely miserable for her and for him (packing in London with small baby). I have just arranged for the Princess to fly home from France tomorrow for the funeral. It’s all very strange.
I feel very sad, he was a lovely man with enormous joie de vivre. The last couple of years have been tough for everyone but we have been reflecting on all the years of fun and generosity that proceeded them: holidays, dinners out, long runs up mountains followed by pints in the pub. He derived immense pleasure from life. He retired early and for years, he and my mother-in-law enjoyed holidays in Italy where they learnt Italian in the morning and had fun in the afternoons. He was a daily reader of the Corriere della Sera and regularly clipped out items of interest for me. He liked nothing more than taking the extended family out and buying us all dinner. He was endlessly generous, even profligate, as far as his family was concerned. He was the life and soul of every party.