I appreciate how the old prayer goes, "Bless the food before us, the family beside us, and the
love between us..."
A few years back, our youngest son, had a break-in at his home and they took his computer with
all his pictures as well as his original created songs. They also got away with my old film-dependent
camera with a bunch of undeveloped pictures my son had taken. He decried that it wasn't the loss of the computer or the camera, it was the loss of memories and ideas contained within. He was
dismayed that he dreamt he caught the thieves breaking into his house and in his dream, he choked them and hit them with a baseball bat.
It brought back the memory of advice one of my patients gave me one day, "If you want to
destroy your enemy, make them hate." I know how self-destructive hate can be. In that sense,
the thieves got my son twice, once for the robbery and once for the deep anger they instilled in
Maybe once a year I watch a family self-destruct as children of a dying parent return from afar to
criticize the choices that the local family had made, often demanding more aggressive care
when the parent is at the end and it is time to let go.
I have seen lawyers at the bedside of a borderline-competent patient working a change in the
will, giving more land to one child than another, resulting in the blackest of disharmony between
kids that had grown up together as family and who will never speak to each other again.
I have seen widows and widowers remarry and find joy once again after the sad death of a
spouse, only to have children selfishly scrambling for the spoils of the inheritance, leaving
someone in the equation without their fair share. Truly there is nothing more heart-breaking than to see such destructive behavior among family members.
But this does not always happen. In fact, more often than not, the death bed of a parent brings
some great moments of joy. One family I remember in particular, surrounded their dying mother
with harmonious hymns in that hospital room as they had the family reunion that hadn't occurred in many years. Families most often come together around a dying parent or sibling joyously sharing of family memories while supporting and loving the one leaving.
Our son found a way to let go of the loss and anger following the robbery and moved on to new
equipment and even better creativity.
It isn't the material stuff in front of us, it is the family beside us, and the love between us.
Richard P. Holm, MD is author of “Life’s Final Season, A Guide for Aging and Dying with Grace” available on Amazon. For free and easy access to the entire Prairie Doc® library, visit www.prairiedoc.org and follow Prairie Doc® on Facebook featuring On Call with the Prairie Doc® a medical Q&A show streaming on Facebook and broadcast on SDPTV most Thursdays at 7 p.m. central.