Family friend Robert Spoeker died last week.  I knew him to be an intelligent, witty, and very gentle man. I’ll always appreciate the friendship he showed my dad, and I imagine as the years go by I’ll primarily remember him by how he lived, but right now I’m thinking mostly about how he died. He decided it was time, stopped eating, and spent his last few days at home in his own bed, with my dad and a hospice nurse keeping watch. By all accounts he was peaceful and clear about what he wanted throughout. No doctors, no hospital, no emergency. I didn’t know we could still die like that, and I’m moved each time I remember.  I hope, when it is my time, that I can be as graceful.

Robert in 2011, far right

Here’s how my dad described it:

Robert made a very classy transition. His housekeeper called me Wednesday, saying he was refusing food and wouldn’t/couldn’t get out of bed. She was freaked and wanted to call 911. Robert and I had had the conversation about this, and I told her to sit tight. When I got over, I could see that he had started the transition. I questioned him about his wishes once again (actually several times), and he said he was fine as he was. He wouldn’t take any food and little water, and was very definite about his wishes.
 
Over the course of the next several days several family members came over to say goodbye. My youngest son’s fiancee is an ER nurse, and when she saw him, she took his vital signs (with his permission) and he was normal. She said that even if we sent him to ER, they would just give him some tests and discharge him. 
 
Over the next day, I read Sar Bachan poetry to him. I had never read it before, I just found the book on his shelf. It’s beauty really struck me. That, and the Master’s photo, seemed to brighten up his lucid moments quite a bit. Finally, he asked me to stop reading, as if he was too busy inside to be bothered even with Sar Bachan, or any other external communication. After that, he seemed to be aware of me, but was non-communicative. 
 
On Saturday, we called a friend who was a hospice nurse. I didn’t know what to do when the time came. She was a neighbor/friend, and was very sympathetic. She came up to his house on her day off unnoficially, and looked at him, and said that he had only a day or 2 left. We went over to the closed hospice office in a windstorm and signed him up (he had years ago given me power of attourney to make healthcare decisions when he was not able). That was very good luck because they didn’t interfere with him at all, but took care of the aftermath beautifully. They even sent over a bag of morphine for him on Saturday night, which, of course, I didn’t give to him  because he was managing his process perfectly well, with no complaints (I did think about taking some myself- but didn’t). I went to sleep Saturday night on the couch at 12:30. He was breathing a bit heavily and sighing when he breathed out. I woke up very alert at 6:30 SundayAM, went in, and he was gone. He looked very much at peace.
 
I am humbled to have been with him and witnessed it all.
 
stev0

 

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