Into the Sunset
the past 8 years my family and I have had to watch as our husband, father,
brother and grandfather diminished before our eyes. Francis Joseph "Joe"
Cain was diagnosed in Jan. of 1998 with Pick's disease, a rare frontal
left lobe dementia. On Feb. 14th, 2006 he took that final ride into
the course of those 8 years we witnessed him getting closer to the horizon,
while he remained oblivious of the changes taking place within him.
We watched an intellectual man who spent 30+ years in the educational
system struggle to balance his checkbook, put a puzzle together and
eventually give up reading, only able to watch T.V and not really comprehend
it. A great conversationalist with a baritone voice lose the ability
to make conversation, then eventually the ability to form words, leaving
us with only echoes forged in memories.
mother always called him her "knight in shining armor", and
it was easy to see why.
I think of a Knight I think of the virtues that symbolize their very
nature and I feel grateful that my father taught to me those virtues,
not through lecturous talks, but through his very actions.
first of these would be Love.
My first observation would have been at a very young age. His interactions
with me; changing diapers, feeding and burping, and rocking me to sleep.
Not something a lot of men did in the early 60's, and he did it with
A 43 year marriage was another example of not only love, but devotion,
commitment, respect and honor in the way he treated
my mother every day. Not that they did not fight, for no healthy marriage
escapes them, but in the way they did so. Never did I hear them be degrading
or critical, respect was never forsaken in the heat of the moment.
The memory is etched like fine crystal in my mind. I was all of 8 years
old and had taken a candy bar from the local store in our one horse
town near the Ohio River. He had found me with it, unopened and asked
how I had paid for it. Never being a good liar, I confessed my crime
and readied myself for the repercussions. He told me he was disappointed
in me and took me down to the store, had me return the candy and apologize
to the owner. Knowing that I had disappointed him was worse than anything
he could have dealt out for punishment.
Many think of courage as having to face ones fears, and while that is
a type of courage, my dad taught me another that I have never forgotten.
I was perhaps in the fourth or fifth grade and had done some infraction
that I can not recall, however it must have been something big for my
dad showed his Irish side that day. He was angry, yelling and sent me
to my room, punching the door after he closed it, leaving a knuckle
sized hole. I sat in my room, trembling. After perhaps an hour, although
it seemed much longer, he entered and sat down beside me. He told me
what part of my action had made him so angry and why, he told me that
while the action may have been dumb or wrong, I was not. He then proceeded
to apologize for getting so angry! To me that was courage, admitting
that you are wrong.
believe the life lessons my father taught me have stopped as I grew
up. I believe this illness had a way of teaching me things I needed
in order to grow spiritually. I have always believed that ones experiences
throughout their life and how they deal with them lead to ones spiritual
growth, not religion mind you, but your soul or spirit.
were many things we had to deal with and experience throughout the course
of these 8 years. Relationships were put to the test and would either
be strengthened or strained. Fears needed to be confronted or else left
to fester and grow.
me, things that were tested and I hope strengthened include the ability
to be compassionate, respectful, intuitive, cheerful, courageous and
always felt that I had an inability to deal with people that were facing
death with the compassion, courageous and loving manner that I wanted
to give them. While I was not rude or uncompassionate, I never felt
I could give them the best I had to offer in their time of need.
father's gift to me has been to allow me the opportunity to face this
fear and walk beside him towards the final horizon, showing me in stages
exactly what I was capable of. He left me at the horizon, unafraid and
grateful, while I watched him take that last ride into the sunset.
that sun will set for me and I will walk towards the horizon, unafraid.