Gutsy Moves


Intro: Please note that if there is (or has recently been) a life or death medical crisis within your family / close circle of friends, perhaps, it’d be best not to read any further. As for all others who’ve clicked by, the following account has been culled from my family’s personal History Book; backdated to this very day, 33 years ago…


My father, having feared the worst, had delayed colon cancer surgery for at least half a decade.

Long sigh…

September 6, 1988 had no sooner arrived than another of his medical issues, congestive heart failure, had worsened; thereby necessitating two ambulance rides, initially, to our local hospital, ultimately, to a much better staffed and equipped, out of town facility.

At that point, whenever his internist had made his rounds, he had tried his very best to coax my dad into making a more gutsy move; the good doctor saying (words to the effect),

“Seeing how your heart situation has been stabilized and you’re already hospitalized, anyway, why not schedule your long overdue operation?”

And so, September 20, 1988 became “The Day”.

However, no sooner had his surgeon begun the procedure, than he had realized the metastasizing tumors had left him little choice but to wave the white flag.

Further complicating matters, my dad had intentionally left blank his pre-surgical paperwork’s advanced directives section, and his resultant, by default, Full Code status meant that were anything to go wrong, his doctors were required to do everything humanly possible to keep their patient alive.

And everything did go wrong! Big Time Wrong! In essence, my father had died on the operating table; with only hospital heroics wresting his lifeless body from the Grim Reaper’s cold clammy clutches.

Within the hour, his surgeon, in no mood to mince his words, informed me that the best, most merciful thing that could’ve possibly happened to my dad, that morning, would’ve been his dying.

Nonetheless, for the next six weeks, my family and I kept on wallowing in our shared, irrational belief that, if given a chance, our family patriarch would overcome his ventilator dependence and rally, sufficiently, to go home.

  • The Good News: My dad, albeit briefly, was able to breathe, anew, on his own.
  • The Bad News: He had emerged from his ordeal in a horrifying state of mind.

His only sounds, which even remotely resembled sentience / human communication were his yawns.

One of his nurses confided that the phalanx of ICU physicians had formulated two possible diagnoses. Either the cancer had metastasized to my dad’s brain or his likely cancerous liver could not even begin to process the dozens of dangerously interacting pharmaceuticals; all of which had rendered him, for lack of a better phrase, stoned out of his mind.

Well, my dad did finally make it back home, but, alas, this was not his Earthly home.

And such an outcome had only been feasible once his exasperated surgeon had prevailed upon us to make one helluva gutsy move. He had encouraged us (my word choice) to see the light; to morph his patient from Full to No Code; to permit my dad to go into the light (as it were).

Truth told, hospital heroics had been the ONE and ONLY reason my father had managed to stay alive; i.e., if being tethered to an ICU bed, wigged out on Rx drugs and ventilator dependent even qualifies as being alive.

What all of this had actually meant was that we, his family, could’ve picked and chosen any day for him to die. And it’s difficult not to consider September 20, 1988, as the day my father had actually died.

My parting wisdom…

What life and death taught me, 33 years ago, today, is no less applicable today.

  • To varying degrees, major surgery is never free of inherent risks.
  • O.R. bound patients must always convey their advanced directives.
  • Full Code is for patients with a good chance for a complete recovery.
  • Full Code for those with poor chances, can lead to a quasi-living Hell!



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The Erudite Man’s Yawn


My father died on the operating table on this very day, 1988, yet existed for another six weeks.

Sad story short, he had been in denial of Cancer’s warning signs and waited too long. His surgeon had no sooner begun his procedure when he realized his patient was beyond help. Dad had further complicated matters by intentionally leaving blank his pre-op, advanced directives form. So, that categorized him as Full Code. That meant each and every time a medical crisis arose, he expected his doctors and nurses to engage in hospital heroics… at all costs.

We, his family, had also felt duty bound to honor his (by default) directive. Factoring in our false hopes for a miracle and…

Dad was doomed to lead a worthless, ventilator dependent, pharmacological false life. The final chapter of his life could’ve been titled: My In-Limbo Full Code HELL. Even worse, the ventilator tube did not permit him to speak… not even whisper. Hell, he couldn’t have told us “Enough is Enough”  even had he wanted to.

Albeit briefly, my father did muster a rally. The ventilator now removed, we had hoped to talk to him but… the interaction of the regimen of painkiller drugs and/or his cancer metastasizing to his brain had prevented him from forming any intelligible words. About the only sound that sounded even remotely human was his yawn.

The erudite, college educated educator, who could lecture on higher
Math and all of the Sciences had now been reduced to a mere yawn.

Our hoped and prayed for miracle never came. My father’s indecision, eventually, became my mother’s decision and, within mere hours of her freeing her husband from his Full Code Prison, he took his final breath.

My message…

Don’t ever let this happen to any of your loved ones. Don’t ever let this happen to you.







Was It Divine Intervention? (Part 3)

As Part 2 of this series concluded, we stood together at rainbow’s end while I spoke of that full spectral arc… believed it to be Divine Intervention… God’s validation of my Mom’s decision to “no code” her husband… free my Dad from his hospital ICU torture chamber… permit this terminally ill man the death our false hopes had denied him.

I now welcome you to Part 3. This installment has four subheadings titled:

A Time of TransitionA Time to Die… A Sliver of Sunlight… A Time to Reflect.

I’ve linked two of my companion blogs to this one… and… unless you’ve already read them… I strongly recommend you follow these links as they appear… I believe the depth they add to this posting to be immeasurable.

A Time of Transition…

On the eve prior to my Dad’s ill-fated surgery, the last words he’d ever spoken to me were… “Keep the home fires burning.” Ergo, from 1988 through 2003, I was caregiver to Mom… caretaker of her property… thereby allowing her to remain in her home sweet home for her final fifteen years.

During that time, Mom and I had oft regretted how Dad’s “full code” hospital status” had condemned him to “living” a zombie-like existence. No matter how many times we had rehashed this… each and every time we’d wind up looking each other squarely in the eye to solemnly vow we’d never do that to each other.

I was so glad we had had those frank discussions; too… for it was in early 2003… after Mom had fractured her femur and was convalescing in a nursing home… when pneumonia’s deadly chokehold would not permit her to rally.

With all reasonable, medical treatment options exhausted… with Mom’s quality of life steadily worsening with each passing second and her chances for recovery near zero… there I was… staring down at that nursing home “full code” / “no code” form.

Mere days earlier, a Judge had appointed me to be my Mom’s legal guardian and so her fate now rested in my hands. It would’ve been far too easy to feel the same false hopes for my Mom (the same type of false hopes Mom and I had felt for my Dad). But, I simply could not ignore Mom’s voice echoing in my memory… could not turn a deaf ear to her past impassioned pleas… “Please don’t EVER let that happen to me!”

While I hated “no coding” my own Mother… I hated the thought of her suffering even more. Choking back my tears… I signed on the dotted line and handed her fate off to God. After all… even if I had made the wrong decision… He could always intervene to let her recover and continue to live.

 A Time to Die…

My showing my Mom mercy had spared her untold misery and she had died a pain free, dignified death. The final chapter of her life can be read in my posting: Going Home… Going Home…

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, author of On Death and Dying, once described it thusly:

“Watching a peaceable death of a human being reminds us of a falling star; one of the million lights in a vast sky that flares up for a brief moment only to disappear into the endless night forever.”

Six days after Mom had gone to her Heavenly home, I presided over her Memorial Service. Having pasted on my bravest, public face, I had somehow managed to tearlessly deliver her heartfelt eulogy to a larger than expected gathering of mourners and well-wishers… a fifteen minute summation of her near ninety year long life and times.

With nothing else left for ME to do for my Mom… it was now time for ME to go home… to consider what I’d be doing for ME… in whatever time remained for ME on Earth. And after thirty years of helping my folks… how odd it felt to be prioritizing ME at the top of my to-do list.

A Sliver of Sunlight…

On the one-year anniversary of my Mom’s death, I began what was to become my annual ritual to honor her and keep her memory alive. My honoring her request that she be buried in her family plot in Minnesota, had meant I’d be paying my respects from afar… in two special, serene locales within my Michigan, hometown’s city limits.

It was seven years into my newfound family tradition, when something magical happened… my third “Oh Wow” moment… a jaw dropping, astounding, meteorological event which I could not interpret to be anything other than Divine Intervention. I tell more about my experience in my posting: A Sliver of Sunlight

A Time to Reflect…

So here I am in the here and now of 2016. I certainly intend to keep my eyes wide-open to see if any other episodes of Divine Intervention will come my way. Since, so far, they’ve all been weather related… I know my gaze should focus skyward… and since I’ll be already looking up… I’ll be certain to thank our Creator for having never let me down.

Of course there is that “Good things come in threes” adage so… might I have already maxed out my Divine Intervention limit? If that’s the case… then this makes those I’ve already experienced all the more precious. For sure, I’ll treasure these special days and events for the rest of my mortal life… and throughout eternity…

November 9, 1973 ~ The sunbeams breaking through the wintry cloud deck after I had narrowly avoided a fatal head on crash with a semi on that iced over, US-23 overpass. I believe God had spared me so I could carry on till tomorrow… live on through three more decades worth of tomorrows… just to be there to help my folks when they had needed me the most.

November 1, 1988 ~ The rainbow, which told Mom and me that my terminally ill Dad’s storm was finally coming to an end… had assured us both that only death could bring his agony to an end.

April 16, 2011 ~ The sunbeams, which had acted as a Heaven to Earth conduit… streaming my Mother’s love, eternal, upon me. After an eight-year long silence… it had sure felt so good to “hear” my Mom, once again, “say”, “I Love You!”.