Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In Memoriam: my mother's passing occurred one year ago today

One year ago today, Tuesday Dec. 14, 2010, my mother passed away, at age 97, in Capital Hospice, in Arlington, VA.
She had entered four days before, but had been in Hospice care at home under Medicare rules since November, 2009.  

There was a last day in her home (Dec. 10), a last meal (Dec. 9), and earlier last times she had gone to church, a last time she had traveled (to Ohio), and even a last time she had gone anywhere on her own (mid 2009). 

She lived long enough to see introduction of the law that would repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell", which had meant so much to me, even though at the end of her life she no longer understood what it had meant. 

My father’s passing, on New Years Day of 1986, at age 82, had been much more sudden.

Of course, the idea that there is a last experience of many things for us is just a mathematical tautology.  But we are much more aware of this now than earlier generations had been

Medicine is changing the last period of life for many people.  There are discussions that new generic vaccines may wipe out most forms of cancer.  People get many extra years with heart surgery and other treatments.  But eventually, none of us is immortal.   For many more people than ever before (even though not for all people) the length of time at the end of life with severe disability, and perhaps Alzheimers, is a new challenge for this generation, with fewer children and eventually fewer workers to take care of their parents.  This will happen on a scale that earlier generations did not know, even with their more cohesive families. 

I noted today that Congress is still discussing (and the president wants) the Social Security tax partial break to continue, while the trust fund to pay future beneficiaries gets weaker.  We still don’t want to have to pay for our benefits, although many of us will wind up giving them to others through care.   Even now, one can imagine tradeoffs and redistributions, like immediate means testing to “pay for” the social security tax cuts on lower income Americans. 

I remember a day in October 2010, when I visited both the Capital Hospice offices in Ballston and the Facility on 16th Street. I had worked in a life insurance company office building (at one time, United Services Life) that had been torn down on the site of the offices, and I had gone to elementary school at Woodlawn, which now houses the Hospice. For me, this had seemed like irony. I had taken first and second grades in the front atrium rooms of the building, now lobby and administrative areas, and other grades in parts of the building that now care for patients.  The current elementary school is half a mile away, on Glebe Road, up the hill.  

Today I heard again Josh Groban sing "You Raise Me Up", based on an Irish folk song "Danny Boy" (the subject of Stanford's Irish Rhapdsody #1). 

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