Sunday, September 11, 2005

Ted Is Slipping Away

I first wrote about Ted on January 31. Since that time it has become apparent that Ted has Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He is on hospice care, meaning that he has less than 6 weeks to live.

David and I visited him on Friday afternoon. We found him asleep and hooked up to a breathing machine with classical music filling the room. Ted has lost so much weight that he is virtually a skeleton with skin around it. He badly needed a shave. Such a contrast to the charming man who was always so well-dressed and vibrant. We called his wife Suzanne at work to see if we should wake him and she said YES, that he was expecting our visit.

Ted insisted on turning off the breathing machine and using his walker to go out to the living room to talk to us. Every move is with such effort. He breathlessly collapsed on the couch. We gave him an ice cream sandwich which we had brought, hoping it might put a few ounces back on his diminished frame.

Ted’s mind has not in any way been affected by this disease. He knows exactly what is happening and is prepared for death. In fact, he had such a bad last weekend that he was hoping to get it over with soon. At this point, he has a grandson’s bar mitzvah in October to look forward to. Maybe he will make it. Maybe not. He talked lovingly about his musical family – a lot of clarinets and saxophones. His sister, who is now 80, was the only white woman in the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, a jazz band of the 1940s.

Next Monday he will have full-day care, which is a good thing given his difficulty caring for himself. People from the Temple have been wonderful to visit regularly and bring him fattening food. I’m sure he looks forward to company.

When I see how bravely Ted is accepting the inevitable, I feel guilty for feeling at all sorry for myself. His will be a gruesome death, with the air literally squeezed from his body, but gradually, almost like drowning slowly, a minute at a time. But it will be soon. Then he will once again be at peace. I will really miss Ted.


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