Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Choice

Everyone makes choices. We have to take responsibility for those choices. We have to dig deep within ourselves to also not judge others for the choices that they make even if we don't understand or agree with them. We're all doing the best we can in this life. I hope my home isn't made of glass.

I've watched the past few days with a mix of awe and horror as the response to Brittany Maynard's decision to take her own life has evolved over social media and the like. First of all I've never had a terminal brain tumor so I can't say what I would do if I was in her shoes. And PS neither can you. But I can say what I think I would do. 

Looking back I think my grandmother knew she was sick for at least two years before we ever found out. She announced one day she was moving back to Indiana, where my mother was born and she lived for the majority of her life. I didn't want her to go, but at 28 I had my own life by that point and we didn't spend as much time together as we used to. I knew she had a couple friends back there and perhaps would be happier. 

I hugged her one day not long before she left and her stomach felt hard. Like there was a kleenex box in it. I said grandma this isn't normal you should go to the Dr.. Oh I'm fine. A hearty generational gap and a terrifying time in the hospital after her appendix burst as a child, had firmly put her in the mindset of not going near a Dr.. 

Each time I saw her she looked older but she was in her early eighties I had no idea what she was supposed to look like. After 2 years she moved back to Richmond. I was happy, I hated thinking of her isolated so far away where we couldn't help if something happened. Again, 20/20, I think she knew things where getting worse and she would need help. She still didn't tell us anything and there was no way she wasn't having symptoms by this point. What she would tell us later is that she thought God would take her in her sleep because she'd been a good Catholic so there was no reason to go to a Dr. Things would never get that bad. He'd take her before they did.

One day I was at my mom's house and my grandmother called from the bathroom because she didn't have enough energy to get off the toilet. Things spiraled very quickly and within a week she couldn't get out of bed and refused to eat. After two failed attempts, she finally agreed to go with the EMT's to the hospital where they confirmed she had Cancer. She said well I know that. I laughed. There are times of such humor during death. I'll write more about that one day too.

I have very vivid memories about the months we were caring for her before she passed.

The look on her face the first time I changed her diapers.....

The pungent smell of plastic and ointment.....

The negotiations we would have as I tried to get her to eat....

My mom and I fighting....it was just the two of us...

Coming over one day when she'd lost even more weight. I went to the bathroom and threw up I didn't know a human could survive at that weight...

Picking up the hospice kit from the pharmacy. The pharmacist said I don't want to overwhelm you. I said too late and smiled.....

Talking about who would get what as family came in to say goodbye....

Watching her body shut down that last day....

She closed her eyes about two hours before she stopped breathing, her hands running through her hair as she tossed and turned slowly on the bed. I looked at my mom and said I wonder if she can feel anything. I didn't think she could hear me. The last thing she ever said was....it's awful.

I don't want to die like that. I don't want my family to watch me die like that. I don't know what I would do, but I hope to god I have the strength to do what Brittany did.

Rest in peace....


1 comment:

  1. I applaud Brittany's bravery. As much as we hate to say goodbye to those we love, I think it is worse to let them suffer needlessly. My father declined quickly and, while it was hard to see him go, I am thankful that he went before the awfulness that is Alzheimer's truly destroyed his mind. This was a thoughtful and, for me, emotional post. Thanks for sharing.

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