Mis à jour : il y a 6 jours
End of November 2016 —The flight back from the Arctic is going well despite the snow. I am happy to have seen the tundra again after a 2 year absence. During the stopover in Rouyn-Noranda, a message appears on my phone screen. It’s my mother telling me to call back as soon as possible.
My 90-year-old father is anxiously awaiting my return as he has had difficulty breathing since the day before. I ask a few questions and with the information my mother gives me, I ask her to call my sister and the ambulance. For a few days in the hospital, he continued to analyze and be critical of our increasingly less human-oriented healthcare system. He does so with his usual cynicism and witticism. He is hospitalized on the cardiology unit where my ex-life partner works. He feels safe and well surrounded. The whole family takes turns to see him. Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He tells anecdotes about each other's childhood, as if to make sure they are fixed in our memories.
"Tell me doctor, does placing a 90 year old man near the door of the ambulances which open all night and where we freeze, is that what we call medical assistance in dying?"
(My father, lying on a stretcher in the emergency room)
It’s hard to imagine he’s coming to the end of his road. He was in great shape despite his advanced age, although he had lost some of his vitality in the past year. He had come to my house for tea a few days before I left for the North, driving his car himself.
Tuesday December 6. I spend the day with him. I give him his bath and find him a nice reclining chair. Well installed, he will be able to observe the activities of the department where many people know him. That's where I worked and taught there for over 20 years. We chat. I ask him if he's scared. He tells me no, but he's exhausted and worried that my mom won't be able to take care of him when he gets home. I also spend time just watching him doze off in his chair. When he wakes up, he's glad I'm still here. "You know I am very proud of you and I trust you so much. He looks at me with intensity despite the look of exhaustion on his face. My father is from a generation of pioneers who grew up during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Hard times. He kept it tight and he rarely gives compliments. He smiles and tells me he is breathing easier, that he feels like his lungs are back in place and that he no longer has a lead weight on his chest. That evening, he fell asleep happy and passed away peacefully in his sleep.
We had a complex and emotional relationship. Due to illness, I was lucky enough to spend his last year of life with him and we found the words, the ones that are important to a father and his son.
Adhering to the "code of responsible adventure", I do not geolocate with precision the places I explore, except in a few rare exceptions such as my trips to the Arctic or during a relevant historical reference.
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Texts, drawings, videos and photos © Marc-André Pauzé - all rights reserved.