Slipping Away

Posted on: November 30th, 2017 by

My dad is slipping away, ever so slowly.

His Parkinson’s disease is now impeding his swallowing. I’ve been frantically calling his speech therapist, who is working hard with him on improving his ability to swallow. As of today, he’s dehydrated and on IV fluids. As of today, he has pneumonia and has had blood drawn. According to my mom, he doesn’t talk much anymore.

My father is alive. But I’ve lost him anyway.

And grief is seared into my already-broken heart.

My mother is saddled with guilt that she put him in the nursing home for dementia/Alzheimer’s patients. When he first went into the nursing facility, he asked my mom, “We were always together; why are we apart now?”

This is the kind of stuff heartbreak is made of.

My brother and I explain to her that she had no choice: that she couldn’t care for him alone, even with aides. It was too difficult for her and too dangerous for him, for he couldn’t get the proper care in their home.

Selfishly, I reflect on all the loss endured this year: my cat, job, beloved aunt, and now my daddy, the bird whisperer, who could make a bird at the zoo say my name when I was a little girl. The person who always offered a plethora of food to whomever came into our home. A workhorse who steadfastly held two jobs just so our family could make ends meet.

My dad and his only granddaughter

My dad and his only granddaughter

I must admit, I’ve been sheltered for much of my life. I’ve been exceedingly fortunate to know all my elderly relatives because, well, they lasted until they were elderly. When they passed away in my pre-cancer life, I was extremely sad, but I wasn’t the way I am now. Depressed. Grief-smacked beyond measure.

How does one measure grief?

Since cancer, I haven’t been the same. But who is?

The truth is, I don’t grieve well. I grieve ugly. I’m a grief newbie, still, after years of losing Faun and Virginia to cancer.

A couple of nurses recently recommended hospice for my father. My mom is against it; she understandably has an aversion to that word. I personally think hospice is in order, but it’s my mom’s decision to make. I’ve got a call to the doctor to find out his take and to understand what is going on in general with my dad.

And, lately, I find myself thinking, which is worse — cancer or Parkinson’s and its resulting dementia? And I find myself thinking that Parkinson’s is worse.

But the truth is, they both suck.

And, lately, I find myself bargaining with God again, although I have no idea what I’m bargaining for. All I know is that I’ve been praying for courage and strength to endure all this loss.

I need courage and strength in abundance.

How do you measure grief?

What advice do you have to help me cope?

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20 Responses to Slipping Away

  1. Becky had this to say about that:

    A good friend of mine once told me not to quantify my grief. I found that really helpful, because there are always others who are suffering more but that does a disservice to your suffering … comparing doesn’t help … coping, that is tough. I don’t know that I have any suggestions there … when I lost my dad I found that I coped by doing what I could to help mom get organized. I found myself saddened more by her loss than by my own. I made myself busy doing things like managing the memorial website – busy work – but work that I felt was helping in some way. Sending you big hugs and know that you are often in my thoughts.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Becky, you (and your friend) are right: grief can’t be quantified and comparisons are not worth doing. It sounds like you had good coping skills. I know what you mean by being saddened more by your mom’s loss than your own. I feel the same way.

      Thank you for the hugs. They are much appreciated.

  2. Kathi had this to say about that:

    Oh, Beth, Parkinson’s is a cruel disease. All the neuro disorders that rob a person by inches, then feet, then miles, of their very identity, while taking away their mobility, are particularly cruel. I’m so sorry you are all going through this. Hugs, my friend.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Kathi,

      It’s a cruel disease for sure. It’s so upsetting. Thank you for your kind comment. xo

  3. Eileen had this to say about that:

    Beth, I’m so sorry. It is heartbreaking and you’re not selfish. You grieve because you love. It’s always “ugly” and messy, and there are no easy answers except to be very kind and gentle with yourself right now. You’ve been through a lot. xo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Thank you for your insightful comment. Yes, I grieve because I love. I will do my best to be kind to myself. Thank you for the reminder.

  4. Jan Hasak had this to say about that:

    So sad. Be gentle with yourself.

  5. Pattie Cagney Sheehan had this to say about that:

    My heart breaks for you, Beth. I lost my father quickly and unexpectedly to pancreatic cancer over 30 years ago. But I watched my mother fight her cancer until she just could not fight anymore. As much as I wanted her to stay with me, I had to understand it was her life not mine and I could not will it to go my way. You are in my thoughts and I wish you the strength and love of family to get through it.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Pattie,

      I remember your telling me about your parents, and it’s so painful, isn’t it? I’m sorry for all you and your family had to endure. I appreciate your honesty and your sharing this with me. Thank you for your kind words.

  6. Nancy Stordahl had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth,
    I am so sorry your dear dad is slipping away. Witnessing the decline of our parents’ health is one of the hardest things we go through. Many of us understand. As Eileen said, you grieve because you love. And the love will get you through. It always does. I will be thinking about you and your family. You’re not alone, my friend. xo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Nancy,

      Yes, seeing my dad’s health failing has been so difficult. And I know that you do understand. I’m hoping the love will get me through — I take your word for it!

  7. Marie Ennis-O'Connor (@JBBC) had this to say about that:

    Oh my dear, my heart goes out to you. I know the terrible heart-aching pain it is to watch a precious loved one slip away before you. You are very much in my thoughts and in my heart – much love and hugs xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  8. Caroline Ronten had this to say about that:

    Beth, In the midst of all my hellacious life, your post caught my eye. My father was told two months ago that he has six months to live with pancreatic cancer. He is 89 and completely in denial. My mother is slowly fading away from RA and multiple health ailments, she is almost giving up at the same time. I realize you are losing your father in another way. I don’t think we are ever ready to lose our parents. But much less than our parents are ready to lose their children. Hugs to you.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry your parents — and you — are going through such sorrow. I want to tell you what I tell myself each day: hang in there please.

      I so appreciate your comment. Hugs back.

  9. Catherine Foy had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth,
    I am so sorry to read your heartbreaking story. My mother passed away recently so I understand your grief. One thing I have learned that there is no right or wrong way to grieve but you have to experience it and process it in order to heal.
    As some of your other commentators said grief is the price we pay for love. Thinking of you and your family through this difficult time.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Catherine,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your mother. You are right: there is no correct way to grieve. I’m just trying to get through this hard time as best I can.

      That’s all we can do. Thank you for your comment.

  10. Susan Zager had this to say about that:

    Oh Beth- so much grief at once. You and all of your family members made the. best possible choices each time facing these medical nightmares. All I can do is send you tons of love, hugs. And prayers. Be kind to yourself. ❤️

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Susan,

      Yes, it’s a perfect storm of so much heartache at once. I so appreciate your support.

      I will be kind to myself.

      Thank you, my friend.

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