Last days of Tony Resch


Dad passed away at noon today Friday, February 22, 2002.  It was an honorable, moral and ethical death.  It was as he wanted it, in his home, without tubes, without pain and with family.


The decline of Dad over the last week was very quick.  When I arrived last Saturday, he was ambulatory with a walker.  We got a wheel chair on Monday along with a hospital bed and he moved into the bed that night.  By Wednesday, the wheel chair was not useful and he was confined to the bed.  He was very weak.  It was hard for him to work with his hands but he still had a good grip on Thursday.  Because the prostate cancer had done such a number on his red blood cells, he found comfort in extra oxygen, usually at 3-4 liters per minute.  The side effect was nasal irritation and dryness in throat and mouth.


He was understanding and understandable right up until the end, engaging in conversation and able to express his minor needs.  He generally was without pain, and suffered his discomforts well.  While he had little appetite, he almost always would take water, apple or orange juice.  Because he was constantly in bed, was weak and sleep was a relief, day and night became somewhat meaningless the last couple of days.  The Hospice provided a wireless doorbell setup that worked quite well for Dad to request help.  The button part was easy for Dad to use and the bell part fit in my pocket.  On Thursday night, he rang about every hour on the half hour with a request to have position adjusted, get liquid, have a bowel movement or have my presence.  About 1:15 a.m., he ate a little banana; some apricot jello and a liquid nutrition drink called Ensure.  His Ensure preference was butter pecan.


On Wednesday night, also about 1:15 a.m., after taking some water, he said he thought he did not need the oxygen anymore.  I agreed telling him it was not life sustaining and it was the source of his throat and mouth dryness.  I asked him if he wanted me to sit with him and say a prayer and he said, “It wouldn’t hurt”.  I told him he had lived a good life and had been a good man and he told me good night and goodbye.  I sat with him about 20 minutes, until he was snoring and then I went to bed.  He was without extra oxygen until about 7:00 am and did not ask for help the rest of the night.  In the morning, he said he didn’t notice much difference without the oxygen and asked that it be reinstated.  He took a couple of sips of coffee.


On Thursday morning, Janna, the aide that has been helping first Mom and now Dad, came by to check on the folks, to give Mom a shower and Dad a sponge bath and shave and to change bedclothes and to drill Mom on her exercises.  Mark came over to visit about 1:30 pm and I took Mom to visit her sister, Eleanor, and her brother-in-law, Howard at a nursing home in nearby Cambridge.  Both were spryer than I had imagined.  Howard was about to be graduated to a group home as he was quite mobile assisted by a walker and a new hearing aide had made it easier for him to communicate and he was, therefore, no longer in need of the intensive support provided by the nursing home.  Eleanor has lost most of her left side function as a result of her stroke but her right side functions allowed her move about in a wheel chair and to feed herself.  While frustrated by a body that did not serve the occupant’s needs, she and Mom actively shared gossip and memories.


On Friday morning, we received a telephone call from Father Zimmer, the retired priest of my parent’s church, asking if he could come over to visit.  I had suggested Dad would appreciate a visit when the Deacon brought the Eucharist to the folks last Sunday.    He came about 9:00 am, talked with the folks and said some prayers with Dad.  I called my cousin Donna who had said earlier by email that she intended to visit late this week or early next week and told her that I thought today was better.  About 10:30 a.m. Dad’s breathing became shallow, rapid and wheezy and he found the most comfort on his left side looking out the picture window.  About 11:00, I called Marilyn to say I thought it no longer a question of days or weeks but of hours.  I left messages for Brad and Ali.  By 11:30 Dads breathing was slow, deep and unstressed.  It was difficult for him to get suction on a straw for water but he appreciated and swallowed water squirted in by a squeeze bottle.   At 11:45, I told Mom I thought the end was near.  They spoke, she kissed him goodbye, said she loved him, that she was glad she married him.  He said he was scared, blessed himself three times.  Mom said “it will be alright”.  She sat down, Dad breathed a couple of last breaths and I called Hospice.


Mom and I had about an hour before the nurse arrived.  Marilyn and then Donna followed.  Ali called about 1:30 and arrived about 4:00.  We got through to Brad and he arrived about 9:30 p.m. from Duluth.  Rosy will fly in from Chicago at noon today (Saturday, February 23).  The mortuary hearse took Dad away about 2:30.  The Deacon came by to pray with us and help make arrangements.  We started calling relatives and friends and pallbearers.


We plan right now to have visitation at the Rock Mankie Funeral Home (120 Broadway Telephone 320 396 2121) from 4 to 8:00 pm on Sunday, February 23 and a vigil service there at 7:00 pm.  The funeral mass will be 10:00 am on Monday, February 23 at the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, 1050 Southview Ave in Braham, MN Telephone 320 396 3105.  Visitation from 9:00 a.m. Burial will be in the adjacent cemetery.