My father, Keith Furr, is, to put it bluntly, dying. He has been suffering from pretty severe dementia for several months now, not recognizing anyone and not really knowing where he was, and showing no signs of improvement. However, in recent days he took a severe turn for the worse. He has had only very short periods of consciousness, and has refused food and water, and has been suffering from pneumonia. His physicians have placed him on palliative care, meaning no drugs other than what would keep him comfortable, no food or liquid.
Over the years, he has repeatedly expressed wishes that he not be kept alive after all hope has gone, and we feel this, the palliative care and quiet end,is what he would want. He has been very sad in the four and a half years since my mother, Dora Furr, passed, and though he was never very religious, in recent years he spoke of having something of a change of heart and hoping that he would get to see her again.
Dad was a good man. He was the only child from his family of four to make it out of the North Carolina Piedmont and to college and wound up with a PhD in nuclear physics from Duke University, where, incidentally, he met Mom. He spent his entire career working as a professor at Virginia Tech, first in physics and mechanical engineering, directing the Virginia Tech research nuclear reactor, and then, when the reactor was closed down, switching to head the university’s occupational health and safety services program. Under Dad’s leadership, the Virginia Tech campus safety department became a model for others across the country. Dad authored many publications during his career, but one he was particularly proud of was the CRC Handbook of Laboratory Safety, which went through multiple editions and sold very well.
He was married to Mom for over 50 years and when she passed, he was never the same. They argued and fought as any couple likely does, but at the end of the day they knew they’d always have one another.
He is in a nursing home in Florida. My siblings and I just said our goodbyes via cell phone, with the exception of my sister Elizabeth, who lives in the same town as Dad. We’re very grateful to our cousin Anne Bartlett who’s been there through thick and thin for Dad, and who has been acting as a go-between and many other things besides to keep us informed and in the loop and aware of how Dad is doing.
My sisters Elizabeth Furr and Julie Furr Youngman, and my brother Rob Furr plan to hold a memorial service for Dad, very likely at the end of May. We will all miss him very much, and we’re very sad that his time has come.