Is there such a thing?
I just read an article in today’s Wall Street Journal, “A Full Life to the End.” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324577304579054880302791624.html?
It’s adapted from the book “Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death,” by Katy Butler, and due out on Sept. 10. So, I guess there is if you’re able to leave this world on your own terms whether it be doing anything and everything to prolong life or choose palliative care. As my generation of those born in the 1950’s and perhaps later face the imminent passing of our parents, it’s important to honor whatever wishes of dying they have.
Once my mom approached her 80’s she would comment that “we’re just living too long.” I would say, “Oh, come on, mom. It all depends on your quality of life.” I believe she had a good one…until she didn’t. She had directives of no heroics.
We talked about her dementia, however uncomfortable it was for me because while I acknowledged it privately, I was in denial that she had Alzheimer’s. I wish I had been more honest with myself about it because maybe I would have handled some things differently. Mom had a wonderful speech therapist and we often discussed her condition and progress. But I remember getting annoyed with mom when she couldn’t use her TV remote as I explained certain buttons to her. There were times when either I just forgot or didn’t want to acknowledge the increasing limitations of her cognitive ability. Why? My denial or acceptance was not going to change things. I’m still baffled by it.
One of my biggest regrets is not being there when mom took her last breath.
I had sat vigil with her in hospice for two weeks, about 10 hours a day. During the second week she was sleeping a lot more and less awake. I still talked to her, stroked her hands and face. The night before she passed way I decided I needed to sleep in a little and was going to come in a little later that morning. Where was my head? Her doctor had told me that it was going to happen that weekend. Why didn’t I just stay with her overnight?
The hospice nurses assured me mom was not alone, that they were there. But I wasn’t there. And to me, that makes the biggest difference in the world.
Still, I am grateful that mom suffered no pain, and went peacefully.