The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Empathy Before Accuracy …
April 15, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Dad, Death, Empathy, Insight, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad

I recently read a letter in the Guardian from someone wishing to thank the DR who helped them come to terms that their precious family member was going to die.

Before I go on, it would be worth reading it here.

I must admit it made a big impact on me, mainly because I went through it myself.

My father had been ill for a number of years – and on 2 previous occasions, 3 months apart – I had rushed back from Australia because I’d been told he was expected to only have 24 hours to live.

However, as I’ve written many times before, I still thought we would see a miracle and I thought that right up until the last few days of his life.

Dad had become ill again over Christmas and I had flown back from Sydney.

He was in a bad state … apart from complications from his stroke, he had blood poisoning.

He was ill. Worse than I had ever seen him.

And I remember this next moment with terrifying clarity.

Mum and I were by Dad’s side when a Doctor came to see him in the early afternoon.

Afterwards, he looked at Mum and me and gently told us that there was not much he could do but make him comfortable.

He asked if that is what we wanted.

I said yes, tears welling in my eyes.

He then asked if I – and it was specifically me – understood what that meant.

For the first time in years, I could no longer deny the inevitable, my Father was going to die and he was going to die soon.

I didn’t want that. I wanted him to be with me forever. But this was the moment of truth … where what I wanted was not nearly as important as what he needed and the best way I could show how much I loved him was to allow him to go, with dignity and peace.

As I nodded to the doctor, the tears started pouring down my cheeks because after years of my wonderful mum trying to gently coax me into realising the severity of his situation, I finally realised it.

I think we had a couple more days together until that Saturday, on January 16th 1999, when we were called into the hospital early in the morning.

I am incredibly grateful we were with him … that he knew we were by his side as he slowly walked the bridge between life and death … but as much as that day represents unbelievable sadness to me, I will always be grateful to that Doctor.

He was empathetic without being condescending.

He was factual without being cold.

He was present, without being overbearing.

His actions not only ensured we could give my Dad the peace he needed … the peace he deserved … he gave my Mum and me a chance to say the final words we wanted to say. The words that still bring tears to my eyes 17 years later.

I wish I could remember the name of that Doctor.

I remember he was quite young … but if I was to see him again, I’d say thank you.

Because while he wanted to ensure we knew the reality of the situation, he did it with respect and grace and while I may have once thought those truths were the last things you’d want to hear, you realise they are the best demonstration of someone who appreciates humanity.

Thank you Doctor.

13 Comments so far
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Your ability to express your emotions so openly continually amazes me Robert. I wish I had that ability. Despite the very sad topic, this post is also very beautiful, with an important message. Your Dad would be proud.

Comment by George

fuck me campbell, you made my eyes well up. must be some dust in the air.

Comment by andy@cynic

A very poignant post Robert. You are a special man, as was the doctor.

Comment by Lee Hill

I can’t imagine how hard it was to write this post. It was worth it though Rob because it’s wonderful. The NHS is amazing.

Comment by Pete

Happy weekend.

Comment by Billy Whizz

you fucking dick.

Comment by andy@cynic

Oh Billy.

Comment by George

Ha … you sarcastic little shit.
But well done, it was getting stifling in here.

Comment by Rob

Respect and empathy are traits of a great person.

Comment by Bazza

Sad and beautiful Robert.
A big hug from all of us.

Comment by Mary Bryant

Thank you lovely people. And Billy.

Comment by Rob

Today I must put my signature on a document to have my mother moved from assisted living in her facility to memory care unit within the same facility. The trauma she will endure from the move for some weeks makes this the most painful decision ever made by myself. Though not as heart wrenching as your post it is a path to the inevitable like yours.

Comment by Howard Coughlin

[…] A reminder of the importance of empathy. […]

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