What should I do? (Father gravely ill, should I visit?)

My dad is dying.

On his deathbed, my mother says, with some doubt that he’ll live through the weekend. He is eighty-one and has pneumonia, and a mysterious spot on one lung. He is not responding to treatment. Three times yesterday he pulled a feeding tube from his throat. A nurse thinks he’s lost his will to live.

I am 1,300 miles away, and my mother is begging me to come back and see him one last time. Due to my own circumstances, I feel that I can’t. My circumstances are these: I’m on the downhill side of middle age, the economy could still tank, I am alone, and I need to buy my own house before I retire. These circumstances lead to the most important reason, which is that I just can’t do anything that could risk my employment right now.

Nobody does my work when I take vacation. Dropping everything and heading back for a week or so, perhaps followed by funeral leave, will lead to revenue loss for my employer and problems for my colleagues until I return. This is exactly the sort of thing that any rational employer would take into account if a headcount reduction were to take place anytime before I retire. Funeral leave is one thing, but dropping everything voluntarily to have some kind of breakdown, to be followed by funeral leave, is something else. In this economy it is not wise to raise your head in this way.

And taking time now to spend a week or so across the country will also leave me less vacation time to use moving into a new house. Finding, buying, and moving into a new house is something that I will do by myself and will definitely take time away from work.

My sister and one of my brothers seem to understand. I think they support my decision, even though one of my sister’s sons has already arrived and the other is leaving a sick toddler and his pregnant wife to fly 700 miles to my father’s sick bed. How can the nephews drop everything and come back, yet you his eldest son cannot? -asks my mother. You must not care about your father, or any of us really. You just want to stay in Virginia and have fun while your own father dies. I feel bad, very bad, but I do not think it will result in any harboring or nurturing of guilt in the future.

Sigh. No, it’s not that, mom. It’s that everybody has to weigh and make choices, and this is how I have weighed mine. Maybe I’m too conservative in my outlook, too dependent on my paycheck, too subservient to my employer’s beck and call. Maybe I am too fixated on a life I hope to lead when I retire. Maybe I have the yips when it comes to communicating with my supervisor. Maybe I don’t want to remember my father as a 135lb ghost deathrattling his way to the other side; I’d rather remember him as the guy who once pulled a four-bottom plow across a plowed wheat field because the tractor had run out of gas, the sky was black with storm clouds, and he needed to move it a hundred yards or so to unplowed ground, and quick. By himself, slightly uphill, Hercules. A theretofore disinterested, adolescent son dropping everthing to watch in awe. I called him three weeks ago, on his birthday, and we said what needed to be said.

What should I do?

There you go.
You feel he can die, and you’ll be at peace with it, and that’s that.

Jobs come and go.

That’s a very sad post, Mr Flike. Made me weep. I’m sorry that I can’t offer you any constructive advice. I have a similar situation. Just make the decision that feels right to you.

Jobs do come and go, as Mr Jaboney pointed out.

Oh Goodness!! I am so sorry that your dad is suffering. Your dilemma is heart wrenching.

If I were in your place, I’d go. I’d go, so that I hug my dad one last time. I’d go, to hold my mother’s hand coz she is losing her mate. I’d go to console the mother who bore me. I’d go, in the hope, that if & when it’d be my turn in the future, my children would come hug their dad.

I’m bawling now…so I guess my opinion is just sentimental.

Whatever you decide, I hope, you’ll be at peace with the decision. Hugs.

Tough decision, flike. Horrible predicament to be in.

If the same thing were to happen to me right now I wouldn’t be able to drop everything and head back to South Africa to be there either. So I totally understand your reasoning.

My grandfather died of cancer many years ago and I was there. That vision of a sickly old man, so thin and weak is still the most enduring memory of him that I have. Really sorry I saw him like that.

I agree with jimipresley that you should do what feels right for you. Best of luck.

I envy you in that I will never have to make that decision as no immediate family member outside of my daughter arises such feelings within me.

You said what you needed to say to your father. It’s over and you both know it. I know from personal experience and from others that it’s far better to remember someone as they were rather than the frail or failing being they have become. You may hate yourself for it, but there’s nothing worse then seeing someone you loved and respected fall due to ill health or bad personal choices.

We will all die. Either due to ill health, or bad personal choices. Nothing to be afraid of, there’s nothing bad in death or seeing someone die. We always give our condolences to the living, we write notes to the living, we wipe the tears of those who lived, we console the ones that are alive. The ones who live, depend on our shoulders to weep on. How can we deny the living the comfort they seek?

Do what you like. Forget about the shoulds and shouldn’ts. Listen to yourself.

Be aware, though, that there are consequences to these decisions - the living may not all understand and you may have to make bridges with them. You also don’t know how you will feel about having missed the opportunities to say goodbye that a funeral brings, and the bonding with the rest of your family.

At the end of the day, you aren’t going for your father, you’re going for yourself and for your remaining family so you should think about the effects it will have. Your father might not need you but your mother does.

Depending on the relationship you had with eachother, would you fly across the world to hold his hand while he leaves life? Be brave and suck up all the horrible memories, in order to comfort your parents.

(btw, I wasn’t brave, and I regret it. )

I may well face this exact situation some day and I wish I could tell you that it’s a black and white kind of thing, but it’s not. I may not be able to be where I’d like to be because of my need to support my son. If that happens I know I’ll feel trully horrible and I know that no one else close to the situation will understand. But we do all have to make our own choices according to our own situations. Try to find peace and hope your family members will do the same. It’s all you can do, wherever you are.

Why don’t you sit down with your employer, explain the situation, tell him/her you don’t want to harm the company, and see what his/her response is? Could be your boss tells you to get yourself home right away. Could be he/she doesn’t. I think it’s worth a try, if there’s time.

Whatever you do will be okay. Do what your gut tells you is the right thing, and then stick with it.

I think you’ve answered your question. It’s a difficult one. If your father is in this position, chances are, he doesn’t want to be remembered this way, either. You’ve said your goodbyes, your siblings are there for your mother, and once he’s gone, there is very little you can do for him. There’s also nothing you can do for him that you haven’t already done.

Whatever you decide, I hope that you find peace in your decision and wish you and your family the best. My sincerest condolences.

how about a compromise? Talk to your employer about your situation, then take a short leave of 1-2 days, take a red eye flight to your dad’s and return on the same day, forget about the funeral; that way, you get to see your dad as well as minimising the impact to your job.I’m sure your employers will understand.

Divea wrote:


Thomas wrote:

That is excactly what was I was going to say.

My dad passed away suddenly, I never had a chance to say goodbye. If I had that chance now, I would take it.

But whatever you decide, good luck to you, mate.

My feelings exactly.

And like nemesis said, you have said your goodbyes. You may not want to see him in this condition, and he may not want you (or others) to see him, either. If he’s been repeatedly pulling tubes, I’m sure he feels he’s ready to go without seeing anyone one last time.

I come from a family that seems to go for the open-casket funeral, and at a certain point, I decided that I prefer remembering people without an image of them in a casket.

With respect to the job and money in general, I’ve been lucky and have never had a problem finding a job. Many people feel that they will need more and more money as they age, but I’ve found that aging people care less and less about money, and more and more about family and friends.

Sorry to hear about your father.

ditto the above, although I find I feel more insecure about jobs than zender.

[quote=“Tomas”]Why don’t you sit down with your employer, explain the situation, tell him/her you don’t want to harm the company, and see what his/her response is? Could be your boss tells you to get yourself home right away. Could be he/she doesn’t. I think it’s worth a try, if there’s time.[/quote] Yeah, sometimes what I perceive others reaction will be is not, in fact, correct. Put your cards on the table.

There you go.
You feel he can die, and you’ll be at peace with it, and that’s that.[/quote]
I totally agree with this. The goodbye has been done. You and your dad are at peace with your relationship.

In my experience, the second reason for going back would be about your relationship with your mother and supporting her. Relationships and bonding with the family that will go on living. This may or may not be important to you at this time. Like everyone else said, follow your gut, and don’t second guess yourself.

Very sorry to hear this, flike. Given your economic pressure, it’s a tough call. You should do what you feel is right for you, but don’t forget to also do what is right by your parents. Go if at all possible. As Tomas said, talk to the boss about your dilemma.

What would feel right for me is to go, no question about it – go not just for yourself, but for your dad, and your mom. Jobs can always be found again, money can always be earned again, but your parents are the ones who brought you into the world and raised you. You owe this to them, IMO. But those are my feelings about my relationship with my parents. If you feel differently, make your decision accordingly.

I’ll say this, though – you’re less likely to regret going than not going.


I was able to say so long to my dad and felt his last heart beat. Can’t say how I’d feel if I wasn’t there for that.

Ditto. Deep down I really want to tell you, please go, please go; but I know it’s a hard call. So sorry you have to go through this.