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January 25, 2012

What's in a name?

Eileen Hector and her family received a double blow when her father, who had recently had a stroke, was diagnosed with both Alzheimer's disease and advanced lung cancer. Yet, even as she faced this profound loss, she received a special message and blessing from her father--just when something like this seemed out of the realm of possibility. 

NadyaPhoto, iStock Photo

In the days before my father died, my sister and I would sit and talk to him or listen to him while the hospice team made him as comfortable as possible. He had been transferred from his familiar home to the hospice house to help regulate medications to ease his pain.

My father always seemed happy to see us and would address my younger sister by her name, but never addressed me by mine. I wasn’t worried and didn’t make a big deal out of this.

Stepping out of his room one afternoon during lunch, my sister and I commented on this little peculiarity. When we returned to his room, my usually very chatty sister started a conversation and casually asked him what her name was and he answered her. She then asked him what my name was and he seemed to draw a blank.

He focused on my face and searched his ragged memory for the correct name, the name he had given to me at my birth. He seemed to know me, but was not able to verbalize my name. Perhaps in his medicated state he was not able to determine which of his seven children I actually was. He looked directly at my sister and in all sincerity said, “She is my rainbow.”

I’m okay with that.

Never before had he called me his rainbow. I had a few childhood nicknames, but that was not one of them.

My father was an Alzheimer’s patient that suffered a stroke and subsequently was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. He died nearly three months from the date of his diagnoses, one day before his 75th birthday. We had only a short time to prepare for his departure from this world.

I search the sky now and then after a rain, looking for a rainbow, remembering his sweet description for me. I understand it takes the right mixture of sun and rain to create a rainbow and I hope that in his lifetime I brought him a little of both when they were needed most. 
Copyright, Eileen Hector, all rights reserved.

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