Family Panic!

The Pilot - Independent
Wednesday 6th December 2006

They May Not Be Able To Hear You Tomorrow!

After years of trying to be sensitive to the injuries and deaths that affect others that make headlines, I'm one of "the others."
My family is quickly learning that the world really doesn't have the patience to wait and see — doctors are supposed to either tell the world a loved one is getting better, or that the end is near.

My mother's doctors just don't know. She's hanging on, how, no one is sure. Is she better? Not sure. Is she losing the battle? Not sure.
I want to scream aloud this holiday season: Talk to those you love! Tell them what you want, should the unthinkable happen.
We all know Mom didn't want to live on a respirator. We'll see that that doesn't happen. But that's the least of what medical science can do nowadays. Her body is in a hospital bed, linked to IVs and monitors and tubes of all kinds.

And Mom thought not having a will would be OK, because she lives in a state where, with no spouse, should she die any assets go to her children. But she didn't plan for this situation. If hospitals, nursing homes, rehab centers (if we make it that far) and insurance reach their limits, state assistance may require her home be sold (it's a valuable, small, lakeshore house she bought years ago before lakeshore property began to be sold for gold by the square foot).

If you have a home, make a will. And name someone your executor. My family had long talked about living wills and wills. All three siblings have them, and we all confidently told the doctors that first night that Mom had one. It took three days to find her reasoning — written out for all to see — saying she hadn't done either, but planned to soon. My mom turned 70 in August. Soon is not an option now.

I'm hoping that I can grow from this experience. I pray I can be more gentle with those my job leads me to in times of trauma.
I'm hoping to find more patience with others when I'm in a hurry but time for them is moving less fast.
I'm struggling with my faith, little of what I've been taught or come to believe seems to apply in this situation.
I hate it when my telephone rings, but I don't dare not answer.

I'm at an OK place in my own soul and head today, but will I be there tomorrow? Or next week? Can my brother and sister and I find a new balance in our relationship where Mom isn't our anchor and voice of reason?
My grandmother, now 98, sat in church yesterday for the third time and wondered where her daughter was. And she listened to the minister offer prays for her daughter. And she, maybe, remembered that Carol is very sick and in the hospital. And she worried.

Like Grandma, we're all worrying. And we'll continue praying, even if the thoughts are hard to verbalize.
I promised myself when I started this that I wouldn't preach.
But please, if only in memory of everyone who is dealing with some sort of trauma this season, some kind of loss, please let those you love know what they mean to you.
They may not be able to hear you tomorrow.

Tina Groth Peterson is the oldest daughter of Carol Emery of Walker. Tina wrote this column for the The Observer in La Grande, Ore., the newspaper she works at.
Carol, who was recently moved to Neilsen Place in Bemidji, has lived and worked in Walker since 1958. She has been a teacher at Walker-Hackensack School, a financial aide worker at Cass County Social Services, and since retirement an active member of Hope Lutheran, a Shingobee township board member, a WHA School Board member, on the county Civil Service commission, a member of the Park Rapids Chorale and an active grandmother to seven. grandchildren. All three of her children grew up and graduated from Walker-Hackensack School.