Jack Finlayson, May 9, 1919 -- March 23, 2006


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jack in 2003lieutenant jackjack toddler

Thu. March 23:

Lemme see if I have some words here or not. This morning, I got the call that my dad, Jack Finlayson, died at War Memorial Hospital in Sault Ste. Marie, MI. He lived in Sault Ste. Siberia all of his life, except for college and service in World War II. He worked for many years as a bank executive and some of the things he loved to do were flying airplanes, driving automobiles at around 100 mph, cross-country skiing, running, watching lake freighters from his beloved beach, traveling, walking, walking, and walking. Did I mention walking? Miles. His death was not unexpected and I was already north of West Branch, on the I75 SUV Speedway, when I got the call. He was almost 87 years old and he was just about the toughest old coot on earth.

On January 31 of this winter, during his daily walk to the post office, a 2-3 mile round trip, he slipped on ice and his leg bone pushed up through his pelvis and smashed it to smithereens. The orthopedic surgeons in Sault Ste. Marie determined that they could not fix it, so they sent him to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit by air ambulance, where a team of surgeons performed two separate operations to rebuild him. After 23 days at Henry Ford, 11 or thereabouts in the ICU, a ground ambulance took him back to Sault Ste. Marie. He spent three weeks at a rehab facility there before falling into an irreversible decline that sent him to the hospital. He lived his last seven days at War Memorial and yesterday it became clear that he most likely had less than 24 hours left.

Tough or not, he endured a catastrophic accident. In ideal conditions, it would have taken even a much younger person many months to regain even a minimum level of mobility. Although Jack had very few health problems for someone his age, the fact that he was "older than dirt", as one of his docs affectionately put it, and the ongoing shock and trauma that followed the accident took its toll. From his first day at Henry Ford, he showed almost no interest in eating and in his last few days, swallowing even the smallest sip of water was almost impossible.

Throughout the whole ordeal, I personally had to work pretty hard not to be pessimistic about his eventual prognosis. When I got that first call back on January 31st, The Commander said, "he broke his hip." I don't know much about this stuff but, I think if he *had* broken his hip in the "typical" way that many elderly people do, he would have had a good chance of surviving and regaining at least enough mobility to be able to walk down to the beach. But that wasn't what this was. I think Jack knew it. He was a serious walker and I think he knew that he wasn't equal to the amount of rehab he would have to endure to ever be able to stand up and put one foot in front of the other again. I think the prospects of living life being moved between a hospital bed and a wheelchair by a machine were too much for him. He knew there was a good chance he wouldn't ever be able to get back to the beach that he loved. Why go on?

©2003-2006 Anne Finlayson Courtois