Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Category: dying



We lost Delbow Ploppers today. He has gone on to live with Lisa in heaven.

Throughout his life he endured a number of medical procedures, none of them easy. He tore the CCL ligament in both back legs and had to have them surgically repaired. He lost one eye to a detached retina and had to have emergency surgery in Chicago to save the other eye. He endured three different battles with cancer. And he lost most of the remaining eyesight to a cataract. Our little bionic dog saw it all. And he never showed anything but love to us.

And now he is gone. The house, already silent because of Lisa’s absence, is now doubly silent because Delbow is gone. The loneliness I felt after Lisa’s death was mitigated somewhat by Delbow always being there for me. And now he’s gone too.

Will Rogers famously said, “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” I couldn’t agree more.

The lone male in the litter of five Coton de Tulear puppies, we brought him home with us and he slept in Lisa’s elbow the entire ride home. We had just seen Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V with the kids and were reminded how the French princess, preparing in case her father’s army lost to the English, learned the new English language. Instead of saying “elbow,” she kept saying “d’elbow.” And that’s how Delbow got his name.

He lived to be twelve years old and encompassed most of the kid’s childhood. An era is gone. The kids are seniors in college now and will be off on their own soon. First it was my father in 2014, then it was my wife in 2015 and now cancer has taken my dog too. This continues a difficult time for us and closes another chapter in our lives. Cancer sucks.

No Autopilot When Spiraling In


As we continue our corkscrew toward the ground, we took another turn today. My wife can no longer easily swallow, causing her to cough when taking medications. Because she is so short of breath, she cannot cough up that which she has aspirated and she begins wheezing which results in her vomiting. Because she is not eating, the only thing she vomits is green bile from her stomach. It is a vicious circle as we spiral in.

The kids are convinced now that something will happen the day I drive them back to college. Given how we have tightened the spiral, I’m not sure I disagree.

Looking outward from inside this corkscrew is disorienting. As soon as I am convinced that something has settled, the wings tilt inward still further and we spin that much faster toward the ground. But one can find focus in this spin. When I least expect it and am most ill prepared, the gravity and magnitude of the situation (essentially the finality of it all) clubs me with a mighty blow after which I find myself gasping for breath, crying and floating directionless in the air until the reality of current circumstances force me to see the spinning and rapidly approaching ground through the windscreen.

There is no peace when spiraling in. Life’s obligations and daily tasks still require our attention: the dog needs to be fed and given his meds, the laundry never stops, groceries still need to shopped for, bills still need to be paid, work still needs to be done. However, there is a certain feeling of mechanization about it all. We go through the motions of shopping, eating, dressing, sleeping, as we have all summer, but there is no soul in it. Put your seats in the upright and locked position, return your tray table to its stowed position, tighten your seatbelt tight and low around your waist. The captain has exited the aircraft and will not be returning. Cancer is now piloting the aircraft. Thank you for flying the terminally ill skies.

The insanity of the situation is that all but one of us will survive the inevitable crash. We will survive but in what condition? And as hard as this flight has been, I cannot imagine how we will carry on after we bore into the ground. And it is approaching ever faster and filling my field of view. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I cannot see it clearly, because of the blinding rage and constant tears.