Mudty Relationships: An Essay in Closure - Part 10

This post is part of an 11 part essay that I have written in memory of my father, Tod “Mudty” Eaton, who passed away in August 2018. On this blog, I had previously shared the eulogy I gave at his Celebration of Life, which I think was a meaningful public goodbye to him.  This essay though is a bit more complex and nuanced in drawing out the final days of my father’s passing and how I reconciled his life, his death, and our relationship.  It’s a deeply personal essay that I have spent many hours on for the past year and with the encouragement of kind friends, have chosen to share.  

Additionally, if you feel so moved, I would encourage you to donate to my fundraiser for Care Dimensions, the hospice home that made his final days more comfortable for all of us.  
Tod Eaton sitting in a chair wearing a "Festivus" sweater.
Tod Eaton, circa 2015

Part 10: Appreciating

Accepting that my father was dying in itself was not as hard as it might be for some. At an early age, he had me read The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages by Leo Buscaglia, a children’s book about life and death. It proved a positive introduction to understanding and accepting death. Freddie, a leaf on a tree, must confront the fact that he must eventually fall from the tree and die. It normalized death in a way for a child that the show Six Feet Under might normalize it for an adult. By respecting and acknowledging death's inevitability, I spent no time on the why or the how of it, which allowed me the privilege to be present with him and his needs.

In fact, when it was clear that he was going into the hospital and wasn’t likely to have long, my mother, my brother, and I came together with such synchronicity of thought that one would think our father had trained us for it. Nobody told us and we never directly discussed why, but once my dad was admitted to the hospital, the three of us sat by his side, making sure someone was there during all hours of the day. Each of us took our shifts differently, often as a reflection of how we related and were influenced by him. I read and played one last game of chess with him, my brother talked sports and watched TV with him while my mom sought ways to comfort and converse with him. Among us, we shared updates and changes about him but not about our time together. That was our time with him. It was the moments we had with him for whatever time he had left. It was a pleasure and a privilege to have this time with him with the unambiguous knowledge that his end was near.

We were commended by the hospital, hospice, and others for our constant bedside vigil. These commendations felt as a slight against those families who want to do everything they can but cannot. After all, our vigil was supported and aided by our cultural privilege; a privilege that goes back a few generations that allowed for us to live quite comfortable upper-middle class, white lives. We work white-collar jobs that don’t blink at the idea of adjusting schedules as needed so that we could both work and spend hours a day at the hospital. We had reliable vehicles and the extra income to afford the drive, the parking, and the living on ordered meals for a few weeks. We are educated and part of a network of people working in roles in healthcare that could help us navigate or resist the hospital with things we knew not to be in my father’s best care

We activated our privilege in the ensuing weeks in myriad ways. It was our privilege that allowed us to be by his side for three weeks in hospitals and hospice and not risk financial ruin. Of course, acknowledging this privilege and how it allowed us to make his final weeks easier is something I would not have been capable of without my father.

My dad was born in 1940, was married for over 40 years, had three children, and died in 2018, surrounded by his family. But as Mark Twain says in Life on the Mississippi, that

“is a remark which states a fact without interpreting it: it is something like giving the dimensions of a sunset by astronomical measurements, and cataloguing the colors by their scientific names--as a result, you get the bald fact of the sunset, but you don't see the sunset. It would have been better to paint a picture of it.”
I had the privilege to be part of the picture that he painted with his life, and for that I will be forever grateful. I will miss him and his sunset will always reflect in my own sunset and how I appreciate everyone else's paintings.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  If you haven't read the essay in full or have missed previous parts, feel free to navigate to other parts from the links below:

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