Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Richard E. “Dick” White 6/21/31-10/9/15

After a 2 1/2 year struggle, at 8:30 PM EDT on Friday I lost my Dad.

Four of us did, actually. Four middle-aged adults lost a father-in-law. 10 young adults are down one grandfather. Young Landon, the Lil’Prince, lost a great-grandfather whom he never met.

I am gutted.

My Dad’s been sick, really sick, for quite a long time. First hospitalized in January of 2013 he never recovered from an illness that we were told should have killed him every week since then. We’ve had two and a half years to prepare, a kind of “pre-mourning” if you will. Don’t believe it. There’s no such thing. Staring at the specter of a slow, tortuous decline with all of the indignities associated with it, I was still wholly unprepared for what turned out to be an unexpected and surprisingly quick demise. Nothing of these 2+ years of knowing left me the least bit prepared.

Some time ago I attended a talk on end of life care, the first in a lecture series honoring the friend I lost to cancer a few years ago. The talk was surprisingly moving, not only because it brought back memories of Ken but also because I knew I would likely lose my Dad in the not too far future, and I thought of my folks throughout the talk. What the speaker discussed as end of life care and end of life preparations also offered a very important take-away that I have tried try to apply every day since, especially with my parents.

The speakers thesis is that one should say 4 things often and with ease, not only in the course of completing a life’s work or concluding a life’s relationships, but in the course of living a life:

Please forgive me.
I forgive you.
Thank you.
I love you.

Sounds simple, huh? Maybe even a little trite. But each one of those little phrases is a bit of a minefield, each one laden with a hidden meaning and a back story, each one the mid-point in a little journey with a “before” you know, and an “after” you can’t possibly predict. There’s a little risk in that “after”, too, and that’s why those 4 little phrases aren’t really all that simple, and why considering this is not at all trivial. All 4 of those little phrases make you look outward, look at another, and in the stating they force you to put yourself at the mercy of that other. Each one of those phrases is a little opening in our guard, an invitation to accept or reject not only the sentiment but the sender.

I’ve now spent several years thinking about those 4 essential things and about how they fit in a life that is not necessarily concluding (at least I hope not!). We are, each of us, part of a tiny little ecosystem; thinking about using these phrases encourages us to look outward and see the others in our own worlds whether we are approaching the conclusion of a life or smack dab in the middle. How will my parents react if I approach this when I visit? Do they/did they know it’s now the 5th act, that we are tying up all of the loose ends in the story?

How about my friends, my kids, my darling bride? Actually, without really knowing it I’ve been on this path for some years now, probably guided by Beth and her inherent goodness. Friends come and go; either way I’ll likely feel a sense of completeness in any relationship if I remember these 4 things. Patients and staff do, too. I think I’m a pretty good boss and pretty user-friendly for patients as far as specialists go. Bet I’ll be better at both if I’m thinking about these, even just a little bit, even now.

Please forgive me.
I forgive you.
Thank you.
I love you.

I hope, sweet God do I hope, that I remembered enough, said these enough. I pray that I remembered to say them to my Dad before he lost the ability to remember that I said them. Don’t wait as the end of someone’s life approaches to say these four things. Don’t wait for the conclusion of your life before you think about these.

Richard E. “Dick” White 6/21/31-10/9/15. I really loved my Dad, and I will miss him every day of my life.


4 Responses to “Richard E. “Dick” White 6/21/31-10/9/15”

  1. October 21st, 2015 at 1:10 am

    Julia Dunbar says:

    Dear Dr.White,

    I found your blog attachment, through our recent LinkedIn connection and I am glad I did. I wanted to reach out and express my condolences for you and your family.

    Through this blog I am able to do that and also discover an amazing piece of you that I did not know and that is your soulful writing. I have read through some of your posts and find them all very endearing and so very truthful. The 4 phrases you mentioned above seem so simplistic, but I have learned even though I haven’t been on this earth for very long, that they can be very hard to say. You have reminded me how precious our loved ones are and that we should not take anything for granted.

    Once again, my condolences to you and your family and I will pray for you all in these trying times.

    Julia Dunbar

  2. October 21st, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    drwhite says:

    Oh my, Julia…how very sweet of you to write. Thank you so much for your kind words. My Dad was a very nice man and I will miss him every day of the rest of my life.

    Do continue to visit when you are home.



  3. January 26th, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    David Howard MD says:

    Dear Darrell —

    This is a stunningly beautiful tribute to your Dad and a sensitively written reminder to us all.

    I just found out about Richard’s passing recently, as you know, and am sorry for your loss.

    Your former colleague and kindred spirit,
    — Dave

  4. January 31st, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    drwhite says:

    Ah Dave, you are all too kind. Thanks for dropping in!

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