Update from Rev. Jaco ten Hove: Family Leave Extended
April 16, 2016
Hello, Cedars Members and Friends…
I want to offer a more recent picture of our situation, following previous messages (a column in the March 4 eBeacon and the March 23 letter, posted HERE, announcing our month of Family Leave, which ends on April 27).
My father, Jacob, continues to decline on home hospice, but slowly. The doctor recently gave us a good metaphor for this dynamic. When initially diagnosed as terminal (in this case, with his 97-year-old heart giving out), it can feel like skydiving from a plane – – dramatic plummeting toward the ground. That was how it was when I came down here (Murrieta, CA) in February to be his 24/7 caregiver.
However, once the very helpful hospice team and 24/7 support kicked in, along with a much less frantic environment that refrains from medical interventions, it can be like the parachute opens and one’s descent is significantly slowed. It can even feel like a tug upward or being on a “plateau.”
But the direction is still downward. This is confirmed by Dad’s blood pressure, for instance, which is charted regularly and shows a steady drop, evidenced also in his increasingly dark blue fingertips. He’s not in much pain at all, thankfully, but eats very little and is impressively weak, mostly skin and bones.
The prognosis for this, of course, is inexorable, with care demands increasing as he drops further in functioning. I’m trying to bring an unconditional love to my role as his filial attendant, which is fed by a pretty good relationship between us, forged intentionally over recent decades.
The big unknown factor, though, is timing. Any morning now he might not wake up or he could suffer some partial disability or he could continue to fade gradually. (I suspect some of you know this drill.) He has banked a lifetime of very good health, which provides a perhaps surprising reservoir of sustenance but makes it hard for us to schedule anything more than day-to-day, week-to-week.
So, in concert with the Cedars Board of Trustees we have arranged for an additional week of full Family Leave for both of us, through May 3, at which time Barbara will return to Winslow. As co-ministers, we share one full time position and I must continue to care for this fellow (the last of my six-member family of origin besides me), but Barbara will again take up her half of the co-ministry in May. I expect to be back in the saddle a couple weeks after my Dad’s death, allowing for full closure of his home and a road trip north.
We are deeply engaged in this personal ministry, very grateful to have some release time from other duties as we navigate waters sometimes calm, sometimes turbulent. Your kind thoughts and support are powerfully appreciated, even from a distance. My heart is filled with and strengthened by Cedars connections.