Chris Wilkinson column: Everything has an ending

As I sit here beside my dad, holding his hand, as he prepares to take his final breaths

By Chris Wilkinson

“Everything that has a beginning, has an end.” A quote from the Matrix movie trilogy, nearing the end of the final battle between the antagonist, Agent Smith, and the hero, Neo.

As I sit here beside my dad, holding his hand, as he prepares to take his final breaths — keeping him comfortable is the primary goal. Being with him in his last moments is my wish. I have no idea if the timing will work out…and perhaps he would want to have privacy at the exact moment he takes his last breath. Who knows how he’s feeling about it.

I am emotional of course, and yet I also feel numb. It’s a weird combination of emotion and numbness. The body’s natural protection I suppose. I feel sadness of course, and also somewhat reflective. As he closely approaches the end of his life the thought of finality is present. He’s been the most important man in my adult life.

Dementia has ravaged dad’s body. His brain. All of his physical abilities. It has ravaged his retirement at age 73. It has ravaged his relationships. Ravaged his life. Ravaged ours.

I wonder what he’s thinking. Does he hear me? I’m sure he can. But his dementia is very advanced. Can he understand that it’s me? I don’t think he can. I can’t say for sure. But I believe he knows that whoever is present loves him very much. And is caring for him. And is comforting him. And that’s enough for me.

Part of this deeply emotional time has me thinking about finality. Exiting. The ending. And I’m reminded of the first time a business coach asked me what my exit plan was for my business. This was a few years back and it was in the first five years of the business and, quite honestly, I had no answer. I had never given exiting the business a thought. Why would I think about exiting when we’re just gaining momentum? It is my livelihood and how dare I consider ending that. Once the feeling of being taken aback settled, I quickly realized that I had no exit plan. It was humbling. And good learning.

Now, in these moments, while business doesn’t seem so important, suddenly planning feels important. Suddenly the idea of exit planning feels important. Preparation for an ending. Endings.

What ‘finality’ are you planning for? Maybe business? Or a job ending? Perhaps a relationship. Or a certain chapter of your life that you want to put behind you. Do you ever give it enough thought? Is there something that needs to end in your life, but you’re stalling with it? (Knowingly or not!) Is it painful to think about, so you stop?

I wonder what you’ll think about when you read this. I am wondering a lot right now. I wonder what my dad is thinking. I wonder what he is feeling. I wonder how coherent he is. And I wonder who is going to read this. I wonder if this is the last time I’ll write about my dad. I wonder if any of this resonates with you. I wonder if this will inspire you to act on something. I wonder if this makes a difference. I wonder. And I hope you’ll wonder too. Perhaps in honour of my dad. Or in honour of someone you’ve lost. Wonder. Keep wondering. Because everything that has a beginning, has an end.

Chris Wilkinson is the owner/GM for Nurse Next Door Home Care Services for Cowichan and central Vancouver Island. For more info visit www.NurseNextDoor.com or for questions or a free in-home Caring Consult call 250-748-4357, or email Chris.Wilkinson@NurseNextDoor.com

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