Uncle Joe: Couldn't You Spend Christmas With Us?

This past year has been a tough one for my father’s side of the family. We lost two of my aunts, Aunt Freda and Aunt Lempi in the winter and spring. The day before Christmas Eve we leaned that my Uncle Joe died. He had congestive heart failure and squeezed a great deal of life out his body; as a matter of fact he died after climbing a flight of stairs. The good news is that his nephew John was with him and told us that Uncle Joe didn’t suffer.

Even though he had a long life it’s still tough to lose someone right around the holidays. His death gave this Christmas a tinge of sadness. It’s also hard when it’s winter in Massachusetts. Uncle Joe’s wake is starting as I write this (from sunny and warm San Diego) and the current temperature in Gardner, MA is 11° F. I doubt that most of his family will even be able to attend.

My father is the youngest of seven, and one of four surviving. As a group they’ve been blessed with length of years, if not always good health. Uncle Joe was a case in point. He’s had heart failure for a number of years and needed to be on oxygen for a long time. Had he lived a hundred years ago it’s pretty clear that he wouldn’t have lived this long, and I sometimes wonder if his extra years were a blessing to him. It was certainly good to see him on my infrequent visits to Gardner and I’ll certainly miss him when I’m there next but I think it’s a fair question whether our current state of health care has served him well.

This is probably grist for another post, but our health care system is good at keeping our hearts beating, and moderately good at pain relief. We are also good at providing equipment to keep us mobile (e.g. oxygen tanks, wheelchairs, etc.). But we’re not as good at helping people stay healthy and avoid getting sick. Well, more later.

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