In 2005, My father died at home in China at the age of 86 while in my care as his number one son and his physician. He wanted to live by himself and did so until he had a major stroke at the age of 85 at his home in RI.
My family was in America at the time, so he wanted us to take care of him. When it came time for us to return to China for my work, he chose to be with us in China instead of my brother or sister in America.
My father and I are both physicians. He studied in China and came to the US for further studies right after WWII in 1947. His intention was to return to China as one of their top scientists. However, the Communist revolution changed my parent’s plans. So my brother, sister, and I were born in America.
Both my parents successfully struggled as immigrant physicians in America. The value of studying hard was instilled since my childhood. I did not grow up with any relatives nor did my parents speak much about relatives. I was their number one son, but they did not speak about what it means to be a number one son either. However, their values came out in other ways.
While practicing medicine in America, several of my father’s patients lived in nursing homes on Medicaid. The children of these patients would drive up in a Cadillac and demand that their parents be better fed and taken care of. These children expected the government and nursing home to take care of their parents. He would confront these children to get more involved to feed and nurse their parents.
As I started my own family, I began to live by “a man leave his father and mother and to cleave to his wife.” Yet the desire to “honor your parents” still remained with me. My mother died suddenly in a tragic car accident 11 years before my father died. My father kept to himself, not wanting to get too involved in our families.
After his stroke and deciding to come to China with us, he knew the medical care was not as good as the United States. He just wanted to be comfortable and be around family. As a physician, I was torn about how aggressive to be. He did not want to be in the hospital either in the US or China. When he didn’t want to eat and drink, I would beg and nag him to eat and drink more. When I became tired of nagging him, I would put an IV in him, but he really didn’t want that. He just wanted in his own way to be comfortable.
I believe in filial piety, the duty that the children have to honor and care for their parents especially at the end of their lives when they can no longer care for themselves and need loyal and loving family around.
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