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Charlie's Winter

Charlie Lopes was my uncle. He was a sweet, kind, and exceptionally intelligent man. He shared so much, especially with this nephew during the winter of Charlie's life.

I intend to add pages and stories here from the recollections of our close bond, memories, and love strengthened during Charlie's last years. I spent countless hours listening to the stories that composed Charlie's rich and interesting life. We shared a lot over meals, during waits to see doctors, and on strolls around the neighborhood. Charlie always had fascinating stories to share.

What Charlie didn't want was to have to spend his last days in a nursing home or other care facility and be separated from his loving wife of 64 years, Lee. His last summer (2005), was especially trying because his health was failing. He had been hospitalized several times, with the last time in early August, 2005, coming with an admonishment from his attending physician that they wouldn't release Charlie unless he had full-time care. We tried, but caregivers were not all that helpful. Lee couldn't understand that they were there if Charlie needed something, but most of the time, they sat around reading or talking on their cell phones. Lee would (behind my back) dismiss them.

As I learned that the caregiving plan wasn't working out, I spent most of my time with Charlie, from getting him up in the morning, helping him bathe, feeding him, and reading to him. He always loved his morning paper, and even in his last month of life when he couldn't read any more, he would listen with rapt attention as I read him the paper from cover to cover. Then he would rant about how bad off our country was because of President "W" and his cronies. Charlie especially detested Cheney. But expressing himself was one way that he kept his mind alive.

While it was very sad, we realized that we couldn't do much for him. I supported his decision to tell his doctor that he didn't want to take his meds any more and that he wanted to die. The doctor relented, and arranged for hospice care. The folks at Montgomery Hospice were very good, and gentle. The provided meds that eased pain and helped him to sleep.

Five days after going on home hospice care, I was there when he passed away at the age of 95, with his wife and me by his side. (Read my eulogy message here). I will never forget the time I spent with Uncle Charlie, and the profound impact he had on my life -- especially at a time when I needed his love and support. When I have time, I will share some of these stories and recollections from Charlie's rich, wonderful life. It truly was very special to be in a position to help him live as he wanted, and die as he wanted, at home, without having to be hospitalized or institutionalized. I celebrate Charlie's life, his intelligence, his love, but most especially, his dignity and honor.