In search of story

There comes a time


It had been a very long day, but then most days were. In addition to the usual bounding between Dad and catastrophe, there was a visit to his primary care physician. Dad was unsteady and taking him anywhere was a challenge. The doctor had told us that he was withdrawing some of Dad’s medications and that Dad should eat whatever he wanted, cholesterol be damned. Well, maybe those weren’t his exact words.

Dad and I had finished our usual early dinner and the day was closing into a winter evening as Dad was closing into himself, beginning his night’s restlessness. The phone rang; I took the call in a room away from Dad and was surprised to hear the voice of Dad’s wonderful doctor.

“I wanted to be sure you understood me today,” he said gently.

I assured the doctor I had understood: aggressive treatment was no longer the greater good. Dad’s body had had enough of swimming upstream. He was 84, worn out by dementia he didn’t even realize he had; his cardiovascular system and heart were exhausted, his mind not his own any more. Death wasn’t imminent, but life was, like the winter day, closing.

The doctor gave me permission to stop fighting the disease. It was OK to let go and know that Dad and God would take it from there. It was time.

It didn’t mean the end of medical care for Dad; it meant that medical care had a different purpose. The doctor was not abandoning his friend, as he referred to Dad, but standing with him, acknowledging reality when Dad couldn’t.

There comes a time when time runs out, and it’s all right to put away the clock.

4 thoughts on “There comes a time

  1. These carefully crafted words speak volumes–about your father’s illness, his nightly condition, your visits to the doctor, what lay ahead. But I am struck by the care and understanding demonstrated by you, and your father’s doctor. I know all to well that relationships like the one you write about so eloquently are all too rare in the medical profession. Perhaps this was a bright spot in a sad and isolated situation. It gives me hope that there are other doctors out there who heal instead of harm.

    • You are so right about how rare that kind of doctor and that kind of doctor-patient relationship. Dad would not permit me to go with him to his doctors’ appointments until the last couple months of his life, but I knew I could trust his primary care doctor completely. He was a godsend.

  2. And I love the new header, Maureen! That bright spot of red does my heart good. Bravo!

  3. Thank you many times! I really strutted around when I’d done that, trying hard not to think that most kindergarteners could do it too (and faster).

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