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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



*Note…this is part two of a three part series. If you are just joining in, you might want to find last week’s paper or check the Dexter Iowa website for last week’s column.


Don’t print this in the paper.” One of the few things my Dad passed along as he lay in a hospital bed in Des Moines. Typical of my family, God forbid we air any dirty laundry in public and ask for help. But you do your best not to bring more stress into the situation, so you nod your head and keep your mouth shut and try to figure out which of his friends and acquaintances throughout his life should be told and who in our own circle could we tell.

This is quite the mess when you really boil it down. While HIPA laws keep the patient protected, the family who needs just as much support as the one who is ill, many times feels handcuffed because they aren’t able to talk about what is going on. We quietly prayed, watched what we said in public and in front of Dad, who even after he was told that there would be no more chemotherapy, kept believing he would get well, and tried to keep from turning on each other in the family.

The meetings carried on, Dad beginning to think the hospital was pushing him out of his room, as we wondered if maybe a change of scenery would help his spirits. He continued to see visitors on a limited basis and hid his ensure bottles unopened behind the closed window curtains, offering them to anyone who came in to see him.

The last day I went to see him in the hospital before his move to hospice, he talked about the horses and visited with the two younger children. He wanted us to stay, asked us not to leave, lest the evil nurse come in and try to get him out of bed and try to walk him again. And took advantage to ask each and every one that came into his room to rub his feet. I love my Dad dearly, but son, let me tell you, I’m not going near your feet.

We finally made the decision to move him to Kavanagh Hospice house on 56th street, a choice that wasn’t made lightly, and he would ask if we thought it was a good idea, always being positive and saying we thought it would be good for him. I secretly wanted him to start having good days, and not necessarily more days. I could picture him sitting up and enjoying the people who stopped into see him, but what we got most days was a combination of him sleeping and playing opossum when he didn’t want to visit any more. That is not to say that he didn’t have good days or good moments, but in all honesty it was a crap shoot when and if those moments would occur. We continued to not talk to him about death, or anything in the past, mostly just spending what little time we could have there between work and our need to spend time there.

In the mean time I spent days researching funeral plans. We shopped around, walking into various funeral homes and asking for a price list (which by law they are required to give you on the spot.) What we found in the end was that price was just as important to us as was trusting who we gave our loved one to. On a warm and sunny afternoon while Dad slept peacefully across the hallway we gathered as a family and started to lay out a plan in case the end came. From the casket to music, to who to have as pall bearers, to where and when to hold services were all discussed and input given until we had about seventy-five percent of the services planned. As we did this my step sister walked into Dad’s room (not knowing that we were sitting secluded in a room across the hall) and woke him to visit. Dad propped open his eyes, smiled and welcomed her, asking if “They are planning my funeral down the hall.” We never could keep a secret from him could we?

I left that evening as the crowd around him tried to get him comfortable and he enjoyed a sip of Coca Cola, noting that it tickled his throat. When I said to him that I had to go work in Adair for a week or ten days helping with harvest and I probably wouldn’t be back down until after that, his one worry and something that brought him almost leaping out of bed was his concern about who would be doing the horse chores. Horse chores? You mean that if I would have said I’m not doing your horse chores you would have gotten out of bed before this?

I walked out that night telling him I would see him in a week and drove home that night thinking about the day and how old he was starting to look. I remember calling my brother telling him that he probably wanted to get down and see Dad that week with his kids as I wasn’t sure how lucid he would be in the next few weeks. Over the next few days I spent my time getting up before dark and doing chores, then heading to Adair to crawl up into a tractor and started hauling corn to an outside pile, all the while feeling guilty that I had to work, instead of being about to spend what time I wanted to spend with Dad, but I knew that he would understand better than anyone where I was at. We continued to pray, and to protect him as much as we could, and at the same time prepared ourselves for what we knew would eventually be coming.

It was a chilly but sunny Sunday morning as I turned on the tractor radio and listened to the bluegrass hymns played that morning, singing along with some of the old ones I knew. It was going to be our last day of work in Adair, with just 40,000 some bushels of corn to haul out to the pile to finish it up, and as we pushed on that morning we knew that the end of that project would come by the end of the day and I was relieved because that meant I would have some time to see Dad during that week.

As I made one round out of the building, trying to eat my lunch at the same time when my phone rang and a tear filled voice was on the other end.