I loved Star Trek, yep I’m a geek, hey I am an engineer after all. Maybe you remember in the intro for Star Trek the show always starts with the dialogue….Space……….The Final Frontier. After the last week with my dad here at the Cancer Treatment Center of America (CTCA) I believe dignity is truly the final frontier.
We are born into this world totally dependent on our parents to provide all our care and of course as babies we love it. Not only do babies love it, they expect it. Then our little babies start to grow up and we all remember when we hear those words “I can do it myself,” for the first time. For me it was bittersweet, so proud my little girl was able to dress herself the first time, I won’t go into what she picked out, but also sad because this was a point of no return, she was slowing marching toward her own independence. However, in the typical life there is a tipping point as we age or become ill that when he hit it and the march shifts back towards dependence. I am witnessing that tipping point this week.
My dad has been through a lot but one thing he has adamantly clung tight to is his dignity. He has not wanted to have anyone else bathe him, or really help him with anything related to activities of daily living; dressing, toileting, etc….Unfortunately, this last week we crossed over to that final frontier. It happened so fast and so complete that it has been a blur. So now dad has one more loss to mourn, his dignity.
I am so blessed and so is my dad to have all these wonderful people supporting us. I often hear how wonderful it is that I am helping my dad, people have been so kind making me feel really good about what I am up to. But I have to tell you what I am doing does not feel noble or inspired at all, particularly as we enter this final frontier.
I have watched my dad over the past few days wrestle with this loss. I am wrestling with his loss. It’s such a challenge seeing him dealing with this new reality. I keep reminding myself, this too you have no control over. Just like dad I am also dealing with loss of control, I realize I did not have control in the first place, but when things are good you can delude yourself into believing you have that which you do not.
I wonder how will I deal with this if this is my fate too. I hope I remember this, I hope I remember how brave and strong my dad is being through all of this. Even though our roles have changed, dad provided me everything I needed to survive when I was a baby and now I am part of a team providing dad what he needs, but dad is still being my parent and teaching me important life lessons. He taught me how to live, he taught me how to love, and now he is teaching me how to die. They always say die with dignity, and I wish we all could die with dignity, but sometimes there is a plan bigger than us and we have no choice how we will enter that final frontier, we can only choose our response to it. Perhaps that’s where the final dignity lies, not in our idea of what is or is not dignified, but how we choose to face that stage when we pass the tipping point and march toward dependence. Isn’t it interesting, as our bodies march towards dependence in the end our soul is preparing to go from dependence to independence again. So again it’s really a question of what do you believe and how do you perceive that belief.
So maybe space, the Universe, God is the final frontier after all.