My father died peacefully last week at the age of 96. I often use my family members, as well as my patients, to illustrate remedies and my father was no exception. But for this post I will only discuss a remedy I used for him from the age of 85 onward- Bryonia alba, and the 2 well known end of life remedies; Carbo vegetabilis and Arsenicum album.
I’m going to describe my Dad as if he was a patient of mine, so please keep in mind, I’m discussing his issues, not his attributes. I enjoyed my father very much and we spent a lot of time together and we loved talking together about many things, especially when I would visit him in Florida and we were alone together. But I’m writing about him to share some homeopathic info about Dad and I hope it helps some of you to remember these remedies.
My Dad was actually very much a Bryonia alba type in his later life. I used to give it to him whenever he was feeling “lousy” as he liked to put it. Although he always was very athletic, he suffered great pain from his sports. He would complain about back pain which started when he was playing football in high school. His right knee, his right hip, his back, his neck- they all bothered him most of his life. All of his beloved activities caused him pain, which reminds me of Bryonia’s most famous rubrics (these are only a few of the MANY pain rubrics for this remedy):
GENERALITIES: MOTION: AGGRAVATED: DURING.
EXTREMITIES: PAIN: MOTION: AGG.
BACK: PAIN: CERVICAL REGION.
BACK: PAIN: CERVICAL REGION: MOTION: AGG.
BACK: PAIN: CERVICAL REGION: MOTION: AGG.: HEAD, OF.
BACK: PAIN: CERVICAL REGION: TURNING: HEAD.
EXTREMITIES: LOWER LIMBS: HIPS.
EXTREMITIES: LOWER LIMBS: HIPS: JOINTS.
EXTREMITIES: LOWER LIMBS: JOINTS.
EXTREMITIES: LOWER LIMBS: KNEES.
EXTREMITIES: LOWER LIMBS: KNEES: HOLLOW OF.
EXTREMITIES: Lower limbs: knees: inner, medial.
EXTREMITIES: LOWER LIMBS: KNEES: PATELLA.
My dad was also a hard worker and supported his wife and 8 kids by building highways and bridges. He was always busy, even on weekends. He worried about work and money- a lot. Some would say that was because he was a child of the depression, but so was my mother- and she NEVER worried about money. Throughout his life my dad was overly concerned with money and finances. He really had no reason to worry because even though we had been relatively poor when I was young, he had saved plenty by the time he retired. So these other famous Bryonia rubrics come to mind:
MIND: RESTLESSNESS, NERVOUSNESS: ANXIOUS: HAS TO: DO SOMETHING, TO.
MIND: FEAR: MISFORTUNE, OF.
MIND: BUSINESS: TALKS OF.
When my father would feel ‘lousy’ he would stay in bed, lie on his side and hardly move. I would give him Bryonia when he was feeling unwell, and he would usually pop back to his old self.
GENERALITIES: LYING: AMEL.: DURING: SIDE, ON.
GENERALITIES: LYING: AMEL.: DURING: SIDE, ON: PAINFUL.
GENERALITIES: LYING: AMEL.: DURING: SIDE, ON: RIGHT.
GENERALITIES: LYING: AMEL.: AFTER.
Dad was very honest, honorable, and dignified; he could be kind but he could also be irritable, well, in fact we often called him grouchy. When he was grouchy, he just wanted to be quiet and alone- he might read, but he never watched TV, except to watch sports with no sound on. He was often funny and always made me laugh, but by being kind of negative and critical- a little like Oscar the Grouch, and he was always stubborn and seldom changed his mind once it was made up. And, every year as he was driving to Florida, he would go 50 miles out his way in order to avoid traffic- it was a family joke, my father’s impatience. All of these are Bryonia issues, along with his continuing aches and pains, and his irritability that alternated with his desire to stay active and be respectable. Dad was able to stay active until 2 years ago. His mind stayed very sharp (although that was one of his fears- Alzheimers- which ran in his family). Despite his age, he continued to live in Florida in the winter, and Connecticut in the summer. He hated being cold and eventually felt that even mid summer was too chilly for him.
MIND: Anxiety: conscience, of. (this is the rubric for ‘feels guilty’)
MIND: Ideas: fixed.
MIND: Industrious, mania for work.
MIND: MOROSE, SULKY, CROSS, FRETFUL, ILL-HUMOR, PEEVISH.
MIND: QUIET: DISPOSITION.
HEAT: VITAL, LACK OF.
HEAT: VITAL, LACK OF: WARMTH: AGG.
Longevity ran in his family and he was no exception, so we all sort of expected him to live forever. But a few weeks ago he panicked because he couldn’t breathe well and asked to be taken to the hospital. They gave him an inhaler, oxygen, and a diuretic because fluid was being retained in his lungs and around his heart, which explained his gasping for air. These treatments helped quite a bit but I realized that he was coming to the end of his life. I went to CT to see him, armed with the two most famous end of life remedies; Carbo vegetabilis and Arsenicum album. Carbo veg is a remedy that is known for ‘air hunger’ and is often used on a death bed with the result that patients seem to revive. I was not hoping for a miracle but I did hope that he would feel less panicky and have less shortness of breath. Interestingly, before I arrived with the remedies, my sister said that she had just found him outside on the terrace on a cool night, with very little clothing on and when she asked him about it (since he was usually very chilly), he said he had to come out in the cool air just to get a breath.
RESPIRATION: DIFFICULT: AIR: COLD: AMEL.
RESPIRATION: FANNED, BEING, AMEL.
Just a few days ago when I was with him, he got quite pale and agitated because he couldn’t breathe. When I gave him 2 doses of the Carbo veg he calmed down and breathed much more easily.
With a lot of intervention, someone like my dad could be kept alive for weeks or even months, but my dad was clear that he wanted to live and die with dignity and receive little or no intervention. None the less, I think most of us are at least somewhat afraid of dying because none of us really knows what will happen. Dad was starting to panic, even though he intellectually he understood that his time had come and the time was right. Arsenicum album is a remedy that is about the fear of dying, particularly of dying alone. It helps the person relax enough to slip away. While my father was still conscious we used the Arsenicum to calm his fears and relax his body.
MIND: FEAR: DEATH, OF.
It is really interesting to note that just 24 hours before passing away, my dad who had always been worried about becoming dependent and undignified in old age, wanted to shower and get dressed that last day so he could go out and sit in the sun to warm up, and he wanted to look well enough to do so. He came in from the terrace with the help of my sister, laid down in his bed for the last time, looked out the window and smiled at her saying “that’s nice…”. He slept quietly until his death the next day. Bravo!