Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Personalized Obituary for Buford Carl Finch

On the afternoon of December 4, 2012, I received a call from my father saying that he had been ill since the previous day and wanted to know if I could come over and take him to the doctor the next day. He was my dad, so of course I would. Since he lived about 70 miles away, I needed to pack a few things. After supper, I made the 90 minute drive to his house. Based on his symptoms, it appeared to me that he had a urinary tract infection and would probably be fine after taking some antibiotics.
He did okay overnight, so on the morning of December 5, I called the office of his general practitioner. A nurse there said it would be best to take him to the emergency room where they could better rehydrate him. So, I drove him to the ER at Huntsville Hospital.

I was right. Dad had a urinary tract infection. But unfortunately, the infection had also gotten into his blood. They started him on several antibiotics; some by IV, others by pill. They were also concerned that the infection could have gotten into his colon, but a colonoscopy showed this to not be the case. Several other tests were run. The only problem they could find was the infection.
So, they checked dad into the hospital and continued to give him antibiotics for the next seven days. By this time, dad was getting better and was eating fairly regular. However, he was still weak. So, the doctor told him he could go to a rehabilitation facility to regain his strength before going home.

I investigated three different facilities in the area and decided that the one dad would like the best was Ardmore on Main in Ardmore, TN. It was an older facility, but the people there were very friendly and competent. Also, the wife of my first cousin, Joe, had been there for several years and Joe recommended the facility. He promised to check in on my dad whenever possible, which made me feel better about going home occasionally.
So, on December 12, dad entered the rehab facility. While there, he exercised nearly every day and was eating regular meals. They also completed his antibiotic treatment. Although his strength was returning to some degree, it did not seem to be coming back as fast as I had hoped. He also complained frequently about a tightness in his stomach, which he thought was due to not clearing out good enough. Even though he was not feeling great, dad and I had some long, good conversations while he was at the rehab facility. He also liked to joke around with the staff. Often, as a staff member was about to leave dad’s room, he would ask if dad needed anything. Dad would usually respond, “Yes. A new body.” Dad said this so frequently that one staff member began asking, “Is there anything I can get you besides a new body?”

As Christmas approached, I asked dad if he wanted me to break him out of the joint and take him to my house to celebrate. He said, “No. I want to stay in here until I get better. I grew up not having anything much for Christmas. It’s not going to bother me to be here in rehab during Christmas.” This statement alone gives you a good sense of the attitude dad took concerning life. So, while my wife, son, and I celebrated Christmas at our house, dad was in the rehab facility. But he got to celebrate anyway. The facility had a Christmas party, and dad attended. He got a bag with goodies in it, and I believe Santa made an appearance.
On the evening of December 26, exactly two weeks after entering rehab, dad became very ill and began vomiting a lot. He was also having difficulty breathing. The staff at Ardmore on Main decided he needed to reenter the hospital. They called for an ambulance to assist him. I was at home when all this happened, so they called me to let me know what was going on.

By the time dad got to Huntsville Hospital it was pretty late at night. After talking to a nurse at the hospital on the phone, I decided that dad had stabilized somewhat, so I could wait until morning to drive over.
Upon arriving at the hospital, I inquired about dad’s condition. They said that he had apparently aspirated while vomiting, causing fluid to build up in his lungs. He had pneumonia and possible congestive heart failure. They had to put him on a pressurized oxygen mask to help him breathe. They also began giving him Lasix to help get the fluid off his lungs. Later they were able to remove the pressurized mask and just use a nasal cannula for the oxygen.

Dad’s kidneys had been weakening over the past 10 years or so. By this time in his life, they were pretty weak. Because of this, his kidneys began to fail as the Lasix was trying to move too much fluid through them. They first decided to take him off the Lasix totally, but later reinstituted a low dose. With his system not being able to process fluids very well, his body began to swell from the IV drip. I asked if they could just quit the IV, and they did. However, he had so much fluid in his body that the skin on his arm began weeping.
Another test showed that dad’s stomach was not processing food sufficiently. It just seemed like his body could not handle everything that was happening to it. Over the next several days, dad continued to have difficulty breathing, even with the oxygen. The only good thing to happen was him having several good bowel movements which helped greatly with his stomach pain. However, his electrolytes then became unbalanced, and he had to be treated for this. During this time, dad began hallucinating. He was seeing people that were not there and things flying around the room. He would comment on seeing these things, but interestingly he seemed to be aware that what he was seeing was not really there.

The following day dad had clarity for the last time. He was not hallucinating and was capable of carrying on a rational conversation. Yet, the doctor had already told me that he was going to die. He simply had too many things wrong with him. When they would try to correct one problem, another would crop up. During one of our conversations, dad told me that he thought he was not going to make it because he had too many things wrong with him. I decided to be honest with him and see how he responded. I told him that I did not think he would make it either. I then asked him who he wanted to do his funeral. He said he would like for Arnie Elliff, a long time preacher friend of his, to do it. But he knew he couldn’t because his health was too bad. We then discussed the location of important papers, his bank account, and so on. Dad just sat there in the bed and talked about these things as though he was planning a trip. He never broke down crying. He never asked for a preacher to come in. And I was totally unaware if he ever prayed to God.
Dad was never what I would call a religious person. He went to church as a young man, but ever since I can remember, I don’t recall him ever attending a church service. He would go to a church building for weddings, funerals, and special events, but he was not a member of any church. When my mom would attend church, she would ride with her cousin. But even though dad was not religious, he was a very moral man and enjoyed engaging in discussions about the Bible.

I wondered how dad would react to the realization that he was about to die in light of the fact that he was not a religious man. Well, he reacted in a much better way than many religious people do. He did not appear to be afraid at all. It was as if he simply viewed his impending death as the next stage of life, one that everyone has to face at some point. In other words, he was at peace with the passage that awaited him. He apparently had no regrets. He had lived a good life, one that was much better than he ever dreamed he would have as he was growing up as a sharecropper.  And although I believe he could have far exceeded the lifestyle he had if he had had more educational opportunities, he always seemed content with what he had.
By the next day, dad’s breathing was getting very difficult. He had to be sedated to keep him from struggling. Knowing that there was nothing to be done to get dad back to a healthy state, and also knowing from many conversations that he would not want to linger in the state he was in, I decided to have him put on comfort care. They basically quit giving him anything other than oxygen, morphine, and a relaxant, and let nature take its course.

On the evening of January 6, I was on my way out of the hospital to go back to dad’s house for the night. As I rounded the corner, I ran into my cousin, Carol. I went back to dad’s room with her and we talked for over an hour. Of course, dad was totally unaware of anyone being there. Sometime after 7 PM we decided to leave. On my way to dad’s house, I stopped for supper and went to a grocery store to get a few supplies.
I was at dad’s house talking to my wife on my cell phone when I received a call on dad’s phone from the hospital saying that they thought he was about to pass on since his breathing was getting very shallow. I told my wife, and we hung up. Before I could get out the door to go back to the hospital, I received another call saying he had already passed.

I drove to the hospital with a lot of different emotions flowing through my body. I was sad that I would not get to talk to dad again, but I was also thankful that he did not linger as he feared he might. At the hospital, they let me spend some time alone in the room with my dad’s body. I knew that dad was gone, and I was simply looking at the vessel he occupied for 89 years, but I still wept like a baby. After collecting myself, I left the room, signed a paper releasing his body to the funeral home, and drove back to dad’s house.
Wanting to make it convenient for people to make it to the funeral, I decided to wait until Saturday, January 12, to have the funeral. I was extremely pleased with the funeral home’s preparation of dad’s body. He had a slight smile on his face just like he always did when alive. Lots of family I had not seen in years showed up. Some good friends of mine that didn’t even know my dad very well, if at all, came. Also, many people who knew my dad from the dance halls he has been frequenting the last several years made an appearance and introduced themselves to me.

Since Arnie Elliff was unavailable for doing dad’s funeral, I had been at a loss as who to get. I didn’t want someone who barely knew him. I knew the logical choice would be me, but I wasn’t sure if I could. I finally decided that I had to do it. I owed dad that. So, I did. I believe it went very well, even though I did cry some a couple of times. The funeral home recorded the service. I uploaded it to YouTube where it can be seen at .
After the funeral, we proceeded to Charity Cemetery, where dad would be laid in the ground next to my mother, who had died a little over 10 years before. My wife, Kathy, spoke briefly, followed by a prayer spoken by my cousin, Edward.

Goodbye, Dad. You will be missed. The world was a better place with you having been in it.

Information about Buford Carl Finch
On August 25, 1923, a baby boy was born to James and Dollie Ann Finch in Albertville, AL. He was named Buford Carl. Ultimately, he would have 7 siblings: brothers Borden, Northern, JD, and Burley, and sisters Lucille, Billie, and Lillian. All seven passed on before him. His father died in a house fire in 1939, and his mother died in 1964.

Buford grew up in the northern Alabama and southern Tennessee area as a sharecropper. When he was a young boy, the depression hit. Life was hard for most people, especially sharecroppers. Because of all the work on the farm, he only completed school through the 4th grade.
During World War II, Buford tried to join the military twice, but was turned down both times because of high blood pressure. Around the end of the war, he started courting a lady 7 years his elder by the name of Mildred Aliene Hall. They were married on February 23, 1946, just 6 days after Aliene turned 30.

In the early years of their marriage, Buford worked around the Huntsville and Decatur area. During the early 1950’s, he worked at various car factories in Detroit.
On February 2, 1955, Aliene gave birth to baby boy named Randy Carl (that’s me!) in Huntsville, AL. About three months later, we all moved to Louisville, KY, for Buford to take a job at General Electric’s Appliance Park. He ended up working there in Building 1 making washing machines until he retired in the mid 1980’s. It was at GE that he got the nickname of Generator.

Buford also learned on his own how to repair TVs and radios. For many years he operated a side repair business out of his garage. Not bad for someone with a 4th grade education.
On September 7, 2002, tragedy struck when Aliene, who had been bedridden for several years, passed away. Sometime after her passing, Buford started going to dance halls, mainly to listen to the live music. He made some good friends there. One got him to try dancing. It turned out he liked it, so he continued to dance until his recent illness. His regular places to go were in Fayetteville, Ardmore, and Lickskillet.

Buford passed away on January 6, 2013. His funeral was held on January 12 at the Hazel Green Funeral Home in Hazel Green, AL. The eulogy was performed by his son, Randy C. Finch, and the graveside service by his daughter-in-law, Kathy Z. Finch. The pall bearers were Joe Hall, Edward Hall, Donny Hopkins, Phil Bare, Craig Schulenberg, and Andrew Finch. He was buried at Charity Cemetery.