My first flash-bulb memory of my dad comes from the day we moved into our family home in 1962. I remember sitting in the moving truck, looking at my legs, looking at the driver’s legs, my dad’s leg, then back to my legs. I willed my legs to grow long enough to hang over the edge of the seat, just like them. I wanted to be as tall and big and strong as my dad. I was two.
I’m as tall as my dad now (I passed my mum’s height in elementary school), but, I’ve sadly realized that I’m probably stronger than my dad. I never thought of myself as stronger than my dad, until this week.
I have to be the one with the strength now…both physically and emotionally.
I can’t believe that it was only a week ago that I was researching the Slow Movement, and discovered a few references to “slow medicine”. Ah, interesting, I thought - sounds a lot like what I’m doing with birth - focusing on reclaiming the rhythm of life, honouring the needs of the body, honouring the wishes of the family, and saying “No” to expensive, unnecessary procedures.
Thanks to the researchers at Dartmouth Medical School, physicians are now being encouraged to practice slow medicine, by educating their patients and their families about the high risks and low rewards associated with high-tech medical care for the elderly. Slow medicine can help families avoid the trauma of 911 calls and emergency room visits. Slow medicine is more about comfort than cure.
Slow medicine allows the elderly to journey gently to the end of life. Slow birth asks people to consider the autonomy and dignity of undisturbed birth or home birth. Slow medicine asks people to consider the autonomy and dignity of home death. Whether entering or leaving this life, the slow movement helps us to make these transitions with grace.
So, it was quite ironic (or perfect in its synchronicity) that, only a few days later, I sat with my mum and dad, the most amazing and loving couple that I’ve ever met, in the Krall Centre (a gift from Diana Krall and friends in memory of her mum), and listened to the hematologist say, “I’m sorry…acute myeloid leukemia…weeks to months…” He told us that, because the disease is so advanced, he wouldn’t suggest any aggressive treatment, but would offer supportive care. I placed my hand on my dad’s knee, and felt him suppress a sob.
“Slow medicine?” I asked quietly.
I don’t know if the doctor knows what slow medicine is, but he was gracious enough to follow my lead. ”We really don’t know how long it will be. Live fully.”
“Can I still garden? Paint?” asked my dad.
So, rather than undergoing any chemotherapy, which would make him so ill, my wonderful, strong dad is up in his studio today, working on a new watercolour. He looks so young at 83. His eyes sparkle with tears. He calls himself Peter Pan - “I will live to 100.”
With the help of slow medicine, we will be able to help dad make this transition with dignity - telling stories, gardening, dancing, kayaking…and we will all be strong.
Recent posts by this author
- Slow Denial - April 4th, 2009
- Slow Escape - March 19th, 2009
- My red Staub cocotte (or, Slow Food with intention) - February 15th, 2009
- I'd like to order one epidural in the parking lot, please. - February 13th, 2009
- SlowBirth, or doing it the "Old School" way - February 9th, 2009