It Seemed Like a Good Idea

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Moving you out of your bedroom, I mean.

You wanted to stay in your house.  You’d made it abundantly clear. You were good at making things abundantly clear.

And you’d lived in that house for 49 years.

But your caregivers said you needed a hospital bed.

And we could put a hospital bed in the den, where the light was good, and there was plenty of room.

You could have your TV, your remote, almost everything from your bedroom.

But you didn’t like the idea of change.  That’s why you wouldn’t consider moving to any kind of facility.


When your mother had to leave her house, you put her in a “rest home,” which, in only a few months, became her death home.

Would she have lived longer if she had stayed put?


It seemed like a good idea at the time, but moving you out of your bedroom was like unplugging you from your life-source.

It meant you’d lost control.

So you gave up.  You let go.


Or was it the photos you missed?  The walls of that bedroom were covered with dozens and dozens and dozens of family photos.  I brought a few classics into the den – your daughters as tiny ballerinas, your older son as Santa Claus in a school play, your late husband as a handsome young colonel, the painting in an expensive frame of me as a sweet, loving four-year-old.

But even with the classics in view, the den was not your bedroom.


When I talk to friends trying to make decisions for their ailing parents, I sometimes bring up Robert Frost’s great line: “Courage is the human virtue that counts most – courage to act on limited knowledge and insufficient evidence.  That’s all any of us have.”

I don’t know if courage is the right word, but all a person can do is make a reasonable decision with the information available and hope for the best.

Even if the decision is brilliant, things are more likely to get worse than get better.

And of course you had friends whose life span lasted far longer than their health span.  You understood what it was like to linger in decrepitude.


When your mother asked if she could come live with us – not year-round, but a third of the year, with a stint at your sister’s and a stint at your brother’s – you said no.  You just could not face having your mother so close.


Would you have lived longer if you’d stayed in your bedroom?

I think so.

Would you have lived better?

I couldn’t possibly know.

Moving you out of your bedroom seemed like a good idea at the time.

And maybe it was.

Interconnecting Circles

David Schweidel
Born 5/4/54 at 5:45am

I turned 25 in Tucson, Arizona, where I was a student in the MFA program at the University of Arizona, teaching two sections of Freshman Comp and trying to learn how to write a good short story. Frankly, when I was 25, I would have been very unlikely to take advice from future me.  Better to make my own mistakes and figure things out – or not – as time went by.

#David Schweidel


  1. Barbara Ridley - April 25, 2024 @ 12:16 pm

    Lovely. I like the line and title – it seemed like a good idea at the time – so full of weight

  2. Karen Hunt - April 18, 2024 @ 11:46 am

    This is so moving, especially the part where the mother refused to take in her own mother in. We are all so complicated. Thank you for the thought-provoking piece.

  3. Bob Pizzi - April 15, 2024 @ 5:20 pm

    David, touching upon many of there issues we see often in. our hospice work.

  4. Mardith - April 9, 2024 @ 3:15 pm

    David, thank you. My favorite line: Even if the decision is brilliant, things are more likely to get worse than get better.

  5. Susan - April 8, 2024 @ 8:28 am

    Wow. Agonizing and comforting. Lovely.

  6. Pat Gallagher - April 6, 2024 @ 6:09 pm

    Thank you, David. “…to linger in decrepitude” is about as good a way as can be found to describe this state that we all fear. It is a haunting reminder of what awaits. Unless….

    Well done.

    ~Pat Gallagher

  7. Carl - April 6, 2024 @ 5:33 pm

    You say Essay, I say poetry, Damn if you didn’t nail both aspects in this piece that takes me to that place of good writing…universality, language, soul and honesty… wisdom and tears. Thank you David, you’ve touched my heart

  8. Daniel Danzig - April 6, 2024 @ 2:57 pm

    Thanks David , such a fine reflection on the these questions, for which there are no adequate answers.

  9. Alice Feller - April 6, 2024 @ 11:05 am

    How do we cope when it’s our turn to care for our parents ? David’s essay is like a long poem. It conjures up the heartbreak and anguish of this moment without ever using that language. A wonderul piece of showing, not telling. With so many of us who face the same dilemma now, this is a timely and thoughtful story, one that I wish I’d read when it was my turn.

  10. Martina Reaves - April 6, 2024 @ 7:32 am

    Lovely, David. Thank you.

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