The Last Adventure

Life can be filled with adventure. Or it may be spent quietly at home, in a gilded cage of routines and responsibilities. We get to choose how we live. Eventually, however, we run out of choices. We face the last adventure: Death.

The mighty tree has fallen…new life begins…

I haven’t written any blog posts in the past six months. It felt like I had little to share. I wasn’t pursuing epic adventures nor was I making much art. I was staying involved with my folks as my Dad’s time here on earth was coming to an end. His heart beat its last rhythm on April 28, 2017

It felt like this was a time of small deeds, of simple words, of loneliness and isolation. Looking back, however, I realize these same things are elements of what makes an adventure “epic.” It is in overcoming obstacles large and small that humans are stretched beyond daily routines. According to the American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, an epic adventure is “any task of great magnitude.” Looked at through that lens, these past six months have indeed been a big epic! What can be greater than helping a loved one move on to the next world even while helping oneself and others grieve that loss here on earth?

My dad lived a life filled with adventure. He traveled many places around the world, both for pleasure and to help others. He adventured on the water and on long road-trips across the United States. He finally fulfilled his dream of taking epic motorcycle trips—to all four corners of the USA and even in the back country of The Gambia, West Africa!

In the past year, Dad gradually lost mobility. Other health issues limited the time he could sit in a plane or in a car. His last trip was to visit family in Montana (my son and his brother) and in Idaho (his nephew). He treasured the memories of that adventure, even in his last few weeks.

Although his health was declining rapidly, Dad enjoyed a family gathering at the end of the year. He was “tickled pink” to welcome a new grandson-in-law to the family and meet the fiancé of another grandson. A few weeks after the party, Dad realized his prayers had been answered: he had the opportunity to see his family members all together one last time.

During the winter, Dad’s world continued to shrink. He could no longer go to the airport to say hello or goodbye to traveling family members. With the cold weather and his limited mobility, Dad enjoyed the few days that were sunny enough to sit outside. Eventually, even getting to church became too much for him.

I sat with Dad weekly through the winter and early spring. Talk meandered here and there: sometimes reminiscing, sometimes talking about practicalities of medical issues, sometimes just sitting together in silence. I treasured those times…and so often I cried myself to sleep on those nights. How can you bear seeing your dad struggle more and more with life? How do you say goodbye to your dad?

In the last ten days of his life, Dad’s world closed in around him, even though he was still at home. He was confined to bed. He needed help to eat or drink. He couldn’t even move without assistance. My siblings stayed at the house twenty-four hours a day, helping Mom to care for Dad. I came in each day, to give the caregivers a break. During this time, my sister and I spent hours playing his favorite hymns. He took comfort in the music just as he found moments of calm in prayer.

And there was waiting, lots of waiting. Dad dozing and crying and begging for the waiting to be over. His family staring out the window, taking walks, seeking the comfort to be found in nature. All of us asking God for hope and comfort and a peaceful passage for him into the next world.

At one point, near the end, Dad asked “When will this trip be over?” Finally, he took his last breath, and started his new journey. We are still grieving his loss…but this photo summarizes the last adventure quite well:

The mighty tree has fallen…new life begins…

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14 thoughts on “The Last Adventure

  1. Oh sweet friend…..I love you so. I know this must have been difficult to put into words. You did such a lovely job. Will always be sending my love and prayers during this strange adjustment between endings and beginnings xoxo

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  2. What a great sharing. Thanks for this. I work for Hospice as a volunteer visitor. I am also once again at the Washington Monument Museum/Visitor Center on the Appalachian Trail where i met you.

    Tom Ruhf

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    • Thanks Tom! We learned first hand how helpful hospice is during end of life journeys. Your volunteering for hospice helps many families, I’m sure.

      Andowen and I fondly remember our stop at “your” visitor center. Your excellent story telling helped her realize history can be interesting after all!

      Best wishes! Jill/Story Seeker

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  3. You did good, my friend. I’m glad you got this beautiful tribute written and posted. I hope it provided you with some cleansing and comfort.

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  4. Sorry for your loss. Your father sounds like a wonderful man and he passed on his love for epic adventures to you. You and your family are in my prayers.

    Tara (LSP) from the AT

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  5. Jill,
    So good to hear of your journey this past year. How wonderful that you had the freedom to walk with your parents at this time and have some space to grieve. My mom is in her last couple of years of life and I am her primary emotional support person so I appreciate hearing about other’s journey. Julie Hart

    Julie Putnam Hart Ph.D.
    Assoc Prof Sociology and Peace & Justice
    Ohio Dominican University
    1216 Sunbury Road
    Columbus, Ohio 43219
    Office Phone 614-251-4263
    Office Hours M-W-F 1-4pm & T-Th 9am-12
    email hartj@ohiodominican.edu
    http://homepages.ohiodominican.edu/~hartj/
    “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you cannot murder hate. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 1966 sermon

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    • Thanks, Julie. I’m sorry you are currently on the same journey. May God give you grace ands bring peace even in difficult moments!

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