karlht: (Default)
2015-06-04 09:46 pm

This was always going to be complicated

An excerpt from a note I sent to my mother's family on May 28:

Most of you have met my father Bill at some point --- he and Janet divorced in 1979, and his interactions with the family thereafter were quite limited, but he did come to Lisa's and my wedding in 2000, and most of you saw him and his wife Kathy there.

Bill is about to be sent home from Oak Ridge Hospital with a hospice team -- he had an infection outside his lung that they were able to successfully remove, but the lack of oxygen to his brain, coupled with the liver damage that 50+ years of alcoholism had done to his liver, has meant that he has not regained consciousness since the surgery on May 8th. We had some hope that in the week following the surgery, he might come back to us -- he was breathing on his own, reacting to some stimuli, and seemed to be making slow and steady progress. But it is now pretty clear that recovery of consciousness is unlikely, and that he is in that unenviable twilight state between life and death. The end may come in days, weeks, months -- we don't know. There is no brain bleed and no gross trauma that any scans can see, but his brain seems to have reached its limit in terms of re-establishing connection with his body.

When the time comes, I will let all of you know, and those of us who knew him can gather (with Dan Decious and anyone else I can think of on this coast who loved my parents) and tell stories and toast his memory. If you have suggestions for who should be invited, please feel free to send them in a reply. In the meantime, I ask for all of your good thoughts for Kathy -- their 30th wedding anniversary was April 6, and what this is doing to her is just heartbreaking.

Bill left us about 6am Eastern time this morning. RIP William Ernest Thiessen, born September 17, 1934, in Kansas City, Missouri, died at home in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, June 4, 2015. He taught me how to draw a crystal structure, how to musically blend in an ensemble, how to drive (and parallel park!) a stick shift, and how to make popcorn on the stove. My current profession as a software engineer also owes much to his development of programs in FORTRAN to analyze scattering patterns from neutron diffraction when I was at an impressionable age.
karlht: (Default)
2012-06-13 10:52 am

"It's always sudden."

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Ten days ago, I was sitting in my mother's living room, listening to her tell stories about her mother and worrying about the pain she was in from a compression fracture in her spine that was not healing quickly enough to suit her, while a dear friend of ours was cooking for us.

A week ago, I was sitting at dinner with my wife and a friend, when I got a call from my cousin. She said, "We're at Sonoma Valley Hospital. Janet has leukemia."

Last night, just after midnight, I got a call from Marin General Hospital. My mother had slipped away in the night, sparing my cousin and me the agonizing decision of how to let her go when it was clear there was no hope.

This is what I wrote in the immediate aftermath:

If I have ever been gentle with you, ever been kind to you when you needed it, been a friend or a support or an ally to you, then raise your glass tonight and drink a toast to the woman who taught me how important it is that we love one another, that we keep one another as safe from harm and as cherished as we possibly can. Remember the good she has done in the world, and tell stories of it to your children and your loved ones. And go forth and make your love manifest in the world — love daringly, defiantly, completely and totally.

Thank you, Janet, for giving me life, and love, and for teaching me to cherish others as you have cherished me.

RIP Janet Roberta Barnes Thiessen. Born December 30, 1940, in Kentfield, California. Died June 13, 2012, in Greenbrae, California. Loving mother, devoted daughter, stalwart friend, passionate believer in justice and fairness, and all around hell of a human being.
karlht: (Default)
2011-12-16 11:00 pm

Thanks, Pop. You were one in a million.

RIP Dennis Allen McDaniel. Born Nov. 12, 1941. Died at home, Dec. 16, 2011.

My wife's family has always done an extraordinary job of loving me for who and what I am, and Dennis's matter-of-fact acceptance of me as a worthy husband for his step-daughter and a welcome addition to his family was always at the forefront of that love. I could ask for no better model of humanity, decency, and dedication to making a marriage work in the face of everything this unfriendly world throws at us. May memories and stories of him gladden our hearts for many years to come.