"I can't wait for my Dad to read this," I thought to myself as I posted this blog on living authentically.  Little did I know, later that same day my Dad would suffer a massive stroke from which he would never recover. 

Death, even when anticipated, has a way of sneaking up on us.  Even though my Dad did suffer from some common health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, I didn't expect him to die when he did.  Death at the age of 72 just seems so young to me now.

I'm not sure if it's our own brains or the influence of how death is portrayed in the media, but we tend to imagine death as a slow process.  Like all the medical programs on TV that show cancer patients going back for chemotherapy time and time again, we imagine ourselves getting sicker and sicker until we finally become bedridden and die.  The reality of our death will likely be very different from that scenario.

When my Dad's stroke hit, it appeared to be a minor one at first.  He simply had a loss of balance and some general confusion, which is why my Mom called for an ambulance to take him to the hospital.  But those minor symptoms quickly developed into serious complications later that day with him not being able to eat or drink on his own.  Ultimately, he slipped into a coma and became unable to breathe on his own as well.  We now know that there are different types of strokes, so the hemorrhagic stroke that he was suffering from that day was causing consistent bleeding in his brain, leading to his quickly deteriorating condition.  There were no long, drawn-out goodbyes for my Dad.  There was no time for him to get his affairs "in order."  He went from being himself to being brain-dead in the span of one day's time.  But that's not where his story ends...

For 5 weeks and 2 days, my Dad was on life support in the intensive care unit of the hospital.  Again, perhaps because it is portrayed this way on TV, you imagine that being his spouse, my mother would have the right to take him off life support.  WRONG!  This is a common misconception.  Being married does not give your spouse an automatic right to make end-of-life medical decisions for you.  You need a power of attorney to assign someone that right for when you are unable to make those decisions yourself.  Alternatively (or in addition), you can create a living will to guide medical personnel in what you do/don't want for your end-of-life care.  A great article on the differences between a POA and a living will can be found here

For 5 weeks and 2 days my Mom had to watch as hospital staff tried to keep my Dad alive at all costs in his debilitating, comatose state despite every one of us knowing that he never wanted to live that way.  It is a strange thing to pray for the death of a loved one, but mercifully God let my Dad pass away on his own.  Then came the difficult part: navigating the world of planning a funeral for someone you love.

Read Part 2 of this series by clicking here.