Thursday, July 17, 2008

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An Update About My Father's Illness

Dear Friends,

My brother Ron and I left my father's hospital room this evening at 10:00. It was a long day, but I'm so pleased to be able to tell you that he is doing better and even, if I may say, well.

It appears that his bowels may be on the mend, Baruch Ha Shem (you may know I do not utter that exclamation too often. I believe one should save that very special utterance for a very special occasion.)

Here, I'll give you an example ... my father, may he enjoy a refuah shleyma, made it to the commode several times in a row today ... BARUCH HASHEM and, as a direct result, he was b'simcha, very happy, with his dignity in tact and let us hope, a healing bowel.

Now you know my father has stage four intestinal cancer and it is that which is killing his body. But he's okay with that ... really! He is. What afflicts his spirit, his dignity, his sense of self is the severe diarrehia. That is what bothers him. My father is the kind of man who cares more about the health and well-being of his spirit than he does a malignant tumor. Yes, he knows his prognosis is not very good.

My father is a pugilist by nature, a fighter-not a mean or coarse man-but simply not given to surrender. That is what enables the rest of us to be and remain so helpful, but make no mistake. The power of “bikkur cholim” is extraordinary. Though progress seems and is often painfully slow, I am convinced it would not only be slower but less progressive were it not for the many visitors who come by. A friend of mine from Jerusalem comented that one is most ‘God-like’ when combining the mitzvot of "kibud av" (honoring thy father) and "bikkur cholim" (visiting the sick). In plain language, it makes the patient feel like a person again.

Hospitalization tends to objectify patients which often, I am sure, tends to slow healing.
I remarked last night-while talking to my brother Ron with whom I shared several drinks and a cigar-that caring for our father was not unlike the palliative effect of holding a baby. Everyone knows that a baby needs to me held lovingly as much as it needs to be fed. Well, it’s the same for those ill or elderly.

Even if the illness is so serious that recovery will not in all likelihood happen, you can be sure your caring presence has increased the happiness of the patient. That is of no little consequence.

One image remains in my head ... last night before my brother and I left for the evening (my father does not want us to stay with him overnight) we "tucked" him in just as would a parent a child. And he knew his sons were there, he was confortable, warm and at ease. Most importantly, he was happy, content, at peace. When I came back the next day, the nurse told me he had had a good, uneventful night.

Baruch Ha Shem!

I sit now in his room. My father is asleep in his chair, and my brother Ron has nodded off while reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

Alan D. Busch


from Northwestern University Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

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