Oh Yes I'm Nigh to Dying

He’s wearing a blue checkered pajama top this morning. Suzette reminded me about cutting it up the back, right to the collar and slipping it on over his head. Worked like a charm. He’s been dressed in something he loves and we’ve not had to wrestle his body to get it on him. 

My brother John trimmed the bendy straw to half size so Dad wouldn’t have to work so hard to get the juice into his mouth.

Simple things that makes this hard thing a little easier. 

John, the Grandson and Blue Bell, the Granddog have been steady presences. 

Dad's beloved niece and nephew drove from New Mexico to sit with him a few hours and tell him how loved he is. They left and things began to change.

He offered one word answers to questions or repeated some of the words we said.

"Let's move you up in the bed, Papa."

"The bed." 

He asked for a white pill for the pregnant male dog (not a typo) at which point I found a thermometer. He had a wee fever. John and I stayed with him until he fell asleep. John sang to him. It was a tender a beautiful evening. 

I wondered if he’d talk again. If he was gone from us. He slept. 

Before the birds were up, I closed a door in his room.

“Who is there?”

“It’s me, Papa.”

He did his crinkly eye smile and said, “I'm a lucky man.”

I'd clipped a microphone on his collar the night before. I turned on the voice recorder. 

In the dark of the morning he recited a poem, starting then stopping then starting again, his voice rising and falling as it does when he’s reading poetry or scripture. 

My master bid you come with me if your name be Barbry Allen. 

Slowly slowly she got up and slowly she drew nigh him.

All she said when near she got was young man I think you’re dying

Oh yes I’m sick I’m very very sick

Oh yes I’m nigh to dying.

Oh yes I’m nigh to dying. 

And all because I love you so, hard hearted Barbry Allen. 

He went back to sleep. I held his hand. 

Out his window I watched the sun come up over the cornfield. Three canine escapees from the neighborhood paid us a visit outside. I took them treats on Dad’s behalf. A train goes by every now and again. The days are fast and slow.

Two Masonic brothers visited. I mentioned the steady stream of Masons coming from surrounding communities to see The Right Reverend, as one calls him. 

“There are so many of you showing up here.” 

“Ma’am…. he always showed up for us.”

I read to Dad from his prayer book. His eyes were closed and I wasn’t sure he was with me until I got to the end of a passage and heard, “Amen.” Made and makes me smile.  

Yesterday Dad could put his lips around the little straw. He’s having a harder time with that this morning. There is fever and a little fidgeting. I asked for the kitchen to stop sending food. Steps in the process.

Nothing to fear as he draws nigh.


Martha Jo Atkins, Ph.D., LPC-S is the Executive Director of Abode Contemplative Care for the Dying in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Atkins is a professional counselor, coach, and researches and teaches about the trajectory of dying. You can learn more about Abode Contemplative Care for the dying at www.abodehome.orgYou can learn more about Dr. Atkins at www.marthaatkins.com or find her on Facebook here or here.

Martha Atkins