...and 18 days after his initial diagnosis, he was gone.
79 years young. Just a year and a half ago he and mom helped us move in to our new home 6 hours away. Then, he started to slow down, like a clock that needed winding. He began to shuffle a bit. A couple falls. He'd have some discomfort - aches in his thighs. What we later came to understand were the cancer cells crowding out his healthy marrow and exerting internal pressure on his bones. But it wasn't presenting in his blood yet. So they continued to investigate.
Infusions would pep him up for a while so he could function nearly normally for a man of his age, with a little help. Until the night he began to have some gripping chest pains. He'd had two stents more than a decade ago, so they went to the nearby hospital to be sure.
Not the heart. Whew. But, pneumonia. And then troubling bloodwork. Then an airlift to Sioux Falls. A top notch oncology team. A dizzying battery of exams.
Acute myeloid leukemia.
And more tests - bone marrow tap, chromosomal DNA testing to pinpoint which of many varieties.
A week in and weaker still, but alert and communicative. Sick of being sick.
First round of chemo to try to curb it. He tolerated it well. Tired him out but no nausea. No vomiting. And years had already taken his hair. "Just give me a razor and a tooth pick and I could go home." He hated that he couldn't shave. He'll proceed through second round and reevaluate. We thought.
Then came the final pathology. Of the cells tested, "no normal cells". Every cell "multiple mutations". "Prognosis in MDS per IPSS-R = very poor." Stop treatment.
10 days later...gone.
And here I stand at his workbench in his basement workshop. There it sits.
A dismantled, half-varnished violin and a glass jar of hardened varnish with a fossilized brush protruding from the amber resin. Only one of hundreds of violins that had passed that workbench in varying need of setup or repair.
Of all of the memories of the last few days with him that remain, that image - after he'd gone - haunts me. The unfinished business on his workbench. Who's fiddle was it? What plans did he have for it? How valuable is was it to him? Does it have a story? A history? A future? A home?
Its implications haunt me more. What unfinished business do I have on the workbench of my life that I plan to get to "some day"? Lord, may it never be an unsaid, "I love you" or forgiveness withheld or the regrets of "I wish I would have..."
He awoke in the delight of His Savior and the host of saints and loved ones gone before. But we remain. Grieving. But grateful that all he left unfinished was a half-varnished violin...and a terribly disorganized workshop.
RLD 2/3/1936 - 9/4/2015