Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Life Is Beautiful. Even When It’s Not.

 

I love my job. I really do. Most of the time.

Except at times like these. I just told one of my closest friends that he has a degenerative brain disease, and that he is going to fade away into dementia and helplessness over the next year or two. He’s only 70 years old. His wife has her hands full. She’ll be changing diapers before she knows what happened. There is no treatment. Well, nothing that works.

He buys good scotch. So I’ve spent a lot of time on his patio, drinking better stuff than what I generally buy, laughing and talking about funny stories. But early this morning, I sat in his living room, drinking coffee, talking about awful, horrible things. Unthinkable things. Things that happen to somebody else. Usually. Until it happens to you.

And then, tomorrow looks dark and bleak.

I left his house, and instead of going home, I drove to Starbucks, where one of my daughters works. She was her usual ray-of-sunshine self, laughing with the customers, and her co-workers. She’ll work there for another month or so, and then she starts a great job as a tech consultant for an international company. She can’t wait to get started.

For her, tomorrow looks so exciting.

My brief exposure to the joy of youth helped, but not as much as I’d hoped.

I’ll have some scotch tonight, some of the good stuff that I keep in the back of my cabinet, in honor of my friend. Probably more than I should. And it will probably help. But not as much as I hope that it will.

I hate my job. I really do. Some of the time.

Life is beautiful. Even when it’s not.

Tomorrow, we give thanks. As we should, every day.

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  1. Hang On Member
    Hang OnJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    https://www.aging-us.com/article/202188/text

     

    • #1
    • November 25, 2020, at 7:54 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  2. iWe Coolidge
    iWeJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Thank you for sharing this. Your strength humbles me.

    • #2
    • November 25, 2020, at 7:54 AM PST
    • 15 likes
  3. DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) Coolidge

    I learned that folks with a dementia diagnosis are told to avoid alcoholic drinks. So there’s that.

    • #3
    • November 25, 2020, at 8:08 AM PST
    • Like
  4. EODmom Coolidge

    I am so sorry for the friendship you may lose. At least the active part. I’m sorry. 

    • #4
    • November 25, 2020, at 8:20 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  5. Mark Camp Member

    More and more this happens on Ricochet:

    I read an unusually good article even by the standards of its unusually fine author, such as this one. I feel the need to express my praise, appreciation, and gratitude. But I merely click “Like”. 

    Thus I transmit exactly the same intensity of feelings as “Likes” for quite ordinary articles that merely elicited some favorable reaction, not a particularly strong one.

    Perhaps you have changed this way, too. You don’t speak. It’s like a solo at the end of a new musical that ends with a sort of stunned silence. Applause and an outburst of loud exclamations would ruin the mood.

    I always feel funny about doing this, though. About saying nothing. But I realize now that my “Like” means something very different for one writer’s work than it does for another. And that some of you must be saying the same thing: This Like means something more, and we admirers of our favorite contributors all know what we mean.

    Now that you know this, I will not go back to yammering at the end of every article like this. I will just be one of those Likes.

    • #5
    • November 25, 2020, at 8:25 AM PST
    • 29 likes
  6. She Reagan
    SheJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I am so very sorry. My heart goes out to your friend and his wife. And to you.

    Dr. Bastiat:

    Life is beautiful. Even when it’s not. 

    Tomorrow, we give thanks. As we should, every day.

    It is beautiful, and it is very fragile.

    And I do. Every day.

    • #6
    • November 25, 2020, at 8:53 AM PST
    • 22 likes
  7. Henry Racette Contributor

    Beautiful.

    Years ago in a different time of life I was involved in church visitations, and spent a fair amount of time in hospitals talking to the ailing elderly of our little congregation. After a visit to a friend who’d just suffered a stroke or heart attack, I’d walk out of the hospital, into the sunlight, and feel relief. I got to go home to six kids and a too-busy life. I, if no longer young, at least hadn’t crested the hill.

    But I also, irrationally but often, felt a fleeting guilt at my good fortune. You probably do too.

    • #7
    • November 25, 2020, at 9:08 AM PST
    • 18 likes
  8. notmarx Member

    Words fail. God bless you, Dr. Bastiat.

    Some attenuated comfort for you, I hope, in knowing that it’s better that the terrible news was given to your friend by someone who loves him; and will mourn him properly when he’s gone; and mourn what he loses when it’s lost.

    My older brothers, in their late 80’s, are senile. Their minds began to fail them in their mid-70’s. I’m 73, have begun a keto-style diet because there’s some evidence that it may keep me from losing my mind. Seems to be working. Time will tell.

    • #8
    • November 25, 2020, at 9:47 AM PST
    • 17 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  9. Henry Castaigne Member

    Deep.

    • #9
    • November 25, 2020, at 10:02 AM PST
    • 1 like
  10. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnellJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Doc, your deep compassion is very clear in all your posts here, and I admire you for it.

    I am at an age, 82, when mental failings become somewhat of a preoccupation with me. About thirty years ago, my cardiologist, who became a good friend, told me that I didn’t need to be too concerned about failing health in old age (or old age at all, for that matter). He said that, because of my heart damage from a congenital condition, I would die from an arrhythmia — and it would all be over in a matter of seconds. But they keep improving pacemakers, and I’m still here.

    So, I worry about dementia and what it will do to my daughters if they must make the decisions for my care. It is one of the many things I’ve learned over the years that one must trust to the hands of our Loving God.

    • #10
    • November 25, 2020, at 11:07 AM PST
    • 20 likes
  11. Hartmann von Aue Member

    Thank you for sharing this touching account from the intersection of your personal and professional lives. 

    • #11
    • November 25, 2020, at 12:00 PM PST
    • 11 likes
  12. Stad Coolidge

    Dr. Bastiat: Tomorrow, we give thanks. As we should, every day.

    I certainly give thanks every day . . . 

    • #12
    • November 25, 2020, at 2:01 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  13. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    My dad was a surgeon. His best friend, Jim, was an anesthesiologist. Jim had all sorts of cancer, lung cancer (he was a smoker), bladder cancer (apparently an occupational hazard of anesthesiologists). Jim was very close to both my parents.

    Dad said he sat with his good friend near the end and told him, “Jim, I’m drinking your scotch.”

    Drink the scotch. Hug your family. Remember the laughter. Give thanks.

    • #13
    • November 25, 2020, at 3:02 PM PST
    • 20 likes
  14. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil FawltyJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Late in life, before the darkness fully descends, there is always the Presidency. 

    • #14
    • November 25, 2020, at 3:53 PM PST
    • 11 likes
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor

    So sorry to hear about your friend, @drbastiat. I have not lost a friend in such a painful way, although my hospice patients often have dementia. I miss one in particular, since she is in a facility and they won’t allow me in. I’m glad, as painful as it is, that you can provide comfort to your friend.

    • #15
    • November 25, 2020, at 4:14 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  16. Jim Beck Member

    Evening Dr. Bastiat,

    Tough to tell your friend that his future is hard, sorry. I am sure your friend was comforted that you were the one to tell him, and I am sure he feels reassured that his friend, you, will help him through this hard time. You are a blessing to him and his wife. I hate loss. You mentioned that his wife will be changing his diaper soon. One of the men I worked with ended up in diapers. Another fellow worker, who had worked with him for 30 years and had also been his friend said that he wouldn’t want to have his children change his diapers, and should age place him in a similar condition, and he would rather be in a nursing home. I would like to us set aside our feelings about what we think is humiliating as we consider a life in which folks, like our parents, later ourselves, wear diapers. Caring for folks who have become helpless is a gift. You are giving to folks who you know can never give back to you, yet it is immensely rewarding. Yes, caregiving can wear you out, and the failure of the body of your loved one can break your heart, but that is not all that there is.

    Should we prefer to end our days in a nursing home so that our children do not have to change our diapers? I think not. There comes times when folks may need more nursing than can be managed alone, but, if possible, it is better not to transfer this care to folks who are hired caregivers. It is ennobling to all, to care for members of your family even when the events of death are very tough. Changing the diaper, the bed pad, the bedside toilet are not the tough parts, it is the loss, that is the tough part.

    • #16
    • November 25, 2020, at 4:20 PM PST
    • 13 likes
  17. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil FawltyJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jim Beck (View Comment):

    Evening Dr. Bastiat,

    Tough to tell your friend that his future is hard, sorry. I am sure your friend was comforted that you were the one to tell him, and I am sure he feels reassured that his friend, you, will help him through this hard time. You are a blessing to him and his wife. I hate loss. You mentioned that his wife will be changing his diaper soon. One of the men I worked with ended up in diapers. Another fellow worker, who had worked with him for 30 years and had also been his friend said that he wouldn’t want to have his children change his diapers, and should age place him in a similar condition, and he would rather be in a nursing home. I would like to us set aside our feelings about what we think is humiliating as we consider a life in which folks, like our parents, later ourselves, wear diapers. Caring for folks who have become helpless is a gift. You are giving to folks who you know can never give back to you, yet it is immensely rewarding. Yes, caregiving can wear you out, and the failure of the body of your loved one can break your heart, but that is not all that there is.

    Should we prefer to end our days in a nursing home so that our children do not have to change our diapers? I think not. There comes times when folks may need more nursing than can be managed alone, but, if possible, it is better not to transfer this care to folks who are hired caregivers. It is ennobling to all, to care for members of your family even when the events of death are very tough. Changing the diaper, the bed pad, the bedside toilet are not the tough parts, it is the loss, that is the tough part.

    Yes.

    • #17
    • November 25, 2020, at 4:29 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  18. She Reagan
    SheJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jim Beck (View Comment):
    Should we prefer to end our days in a nursing home so that our children do not have to change our diapers? I think not. There comes times when folks may need more nursing than can be managed alone, but, if possible, it is better not to transfer this care to folks who are hired caregivers. It is ennobling to all, to care for members of your family even when the events of death are very tough. Changing the diaper, the bed pad, the bedside toilet are not the tough parts, it is the loss, that is the tough part.

    My experience with visiting nurses and home hospice was absolutely stellar. We started with the visiting nurses to take care of some medical problems, and then switched (same agency, so it was seamless) to home hospice three or four weeks before the end. (I understand that some folks are on hospice for much longer.)

    Having a second person to help with bathing and some of the more physical needs was a blessing, as was the willingness of the social worker on the team to sit with Mr. She for a few hours now and then so I could do other things (sometimes, because we were in Covid-Land, I’d just go out for a drive and find a nice spot with a nice view and just look at the scenery. One day, I used the time to shear the sheep . . .).

    I’m not sure I could have coped at home without them. They were sensitive, kind, and not at all intrusive. And when the end came, they were incredibly helpful there too.

    And yes, the loss is (still) the tough part.

    • #18
    • November 25, 2020, at 5:02 PM PST
    • 10 likes
  19. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat

    @markcamp

    I do the same thing. Sometimes a ‘like’ is not enough. Please continue to comment, as I will. Your input matters more than your approval.

    Thank you so very much. I’ve had a bad day. Thanks for brightening it. I owe you one.

    • #19
    • November 25, 2020, at 6:14 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  20. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat

    I got home from Starbucks, and a patient called me, who is not feeling well. I did some tests today, and I found pancreatic cancer. So I had the opportunity to make a second grown man cry. It’s been a crummy day.

    I hate my job. Sometimes.

    Life is beautiful.

    Thank you, everyone, for your kind thoughts. I’m fine. Just a bad day.

    Tomorrow, we give thanks. As we should, every day.

    • #20
    • November 25, 2020, at 6:17 PM PST
    • 12 likes
  21. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat

    iWe (View Comment):

    Thank you for sharing this. Your strength humbles me.

    @iwe

    I’ve had a half a bottle of Laphroaig. I thought it might help. But it didn’t. I still feel horrible. I continue to search for the strength you describe. 

    I would be thrilled with apathy, but I can’t find that either.

    I got a call from a patient on my way home from Starbucks. I did some tests, & found pancreatic cancer. So I got to make two grown men cry on the same day.

    I hate my job. Sometimes.

    I’ll get up tomorrow, and do it again. I suppose that’s strength. At least, it would be, if I had some other option. But this is the path I’ve chosen. Or, more precisely I think, the path that was chosen for me.

    Courage is what brave men do when they’re scared to death. Patton, I think.

    But that would apply more to my patients, who face horrible things, trying to maintain dignity and self respect.

    I’m just some guy who wants to help. Even if he can’t. I would like to help. But there are some things that can’t be helped.

    I yearn for apathy. But I’m stuck with phony courage. It’s overrated.

    Tomorrow will be better.

    For some of us.

     

    • #21
    • November 25, 2020, at 6:39 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  22. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Courage is what brave men do when they’re scared to death. Patton, I think.

    But that would apply more to my patients, who face horrible things, trying to maintain dignity and self respect.

    I’m just some guy who wants to help. Even if he can’t. I would like to help. But there are some things that can’t be helped.

    I yearn for apathy. But I’m stuck with phony courage. It’s overrated.

    Tomorrow will be better.

    For some of us.

    Strength, Doc. You make a difference even if you can’t change things.

    • #22
    • November 25, 2020, at 7:21 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  23. Nick Plosser Coolidge

    @drbastiat-A heavy duty you performed for your friend and worthy of some fervent prayer and good scotch. My step father was a pediatrician for over 40 years. When he was diagnosed with cancer, one of his oldest friends, who was also an oncologist, came to our house and spent an evening talking my step-father through the gritty details of what he was facing. As the oncologist was leaving, my mother and I thanked him for being the one to deliver such heavy news. Will never forget his reply, “No thanks needed. It is my great duty and honor. Clyde (my step-dad) is one of my dearest friends and he is facing a scary disease. I’m able to help my old friend understand exactly what he’s facing and be direct in a way only a close friend can be. I wouldn’t want anyone else to be the one to tell him.” 

    Very sorry to hear about your friend and what he and his wife are facing. But thank God he has you to be the one to deliver that harsh news, and not some stranger. A great duty and honor and also a terrible burden. I’ll say an extra prayer for you, your friend and his wife. And will drink a silent toast to you tomorrow for Thanksgiving. I pray that when my time comes that I will have such a friend.
    God bless. 

    • #23
    • November 25, 2020, at 7:38 PM PST
    • 14 likes
  24. Gatomal Member

    Dr. Bastiat—love reading your posts, and it has been an awful day. Awful. 

    When I used to work organ transplant, the transplant coordinators would first have to approach the families for consent. Some nurses (the ole’ battle axe nurses) used to couch the request in ‘the tragedy has occurred whether or not you donate, but there is some good that can still come out of the tragedy.” It’s true, maybe a bit harsh sounding, but it is a statement that has stuck with me for 20+ years.

    The only good that can come out of the tragedies you’ve been faced with is that YOU are the one delivering the news. You— knowledgeable and caring. It’s awful for you, but a blessing for the recipients of this tragic information, because they matter to you, and they aren’t dehumanized or dismissed. Prayers for you and your patients and friends. 

    • #24
    • November 25, 2020, at 10:54 PM PST
    • 11 likes
  25. Mark Camp Member

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    @markcamp

    I do the same thing. Sometimes a ‘like’ is not enough. Please continue to comment, as I will. Your input matters more than your approval.

    Thank you so very much. I’ve had a bad day. Thanks for brightening it. I owe you one.

    You are welcome. I felt the pain unusually strongly. I don’t know him nor you, but I almost felt as though I had been there. “There is absolutely nothing I can say or do to help,” was my main thought. I guess this intensified my sense of being in your place or his, because this is what we feel when it is happening to us. With perhaps some magnification for a physician, who is accustomed to being the doer of what must be done for others.

    It made me quiet, except for talking to my Father.

    • #25
    • November 26, 2020, at 9:15 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  26. Joe Boyle Member

    Thank you for posting. Your posts generally make me feel so stupid and inadequate. At the same time they inspire me to try and be a better, wiser person.

    • #26
    • November 26, 2020, at 12:19 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  27. Barfly Member

    I know why you posted this at Thanksgiving. Bitter harvest for you, though. I’m sorry, and thank you.

    • #27
    • November 27, 2020, at 5:38 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  28. Hammer, The Member

    I know how you feel.

    • #28
    • November 27, 2020, at 6:37 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  29. EHerring Coolidge

    Thank goodness we have doctors who are willing to serve us despite the gut-wrenching tasks that accompany the joyful side of curing what ails us.

    • #29
    • December 4, 2020, at 10:09 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  30. Allie Hahn Coolidge

    I think of these verses:

    “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
    ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:1-4‬ ‭CSB‬‬

    • #30
    • December 7, 2020, at 5:16 PM PST
    • 4 likes