Upon life and death

A few days ago, a happening happened and I’m still at unrest about it. An elder lady I knew died. This happens often, I know but…..this time was different. Unexpected. I had talked to her a few minutes the night before, heard about her weekend with friends…a reunion of sorts, she said her daughter was coming to visit her and she would leave me and my Dad alone to visit. I was visiting my Dad in the rehab center, in which, this lady lived here full time now due to an accident that brought her here. She met my Dad a year earlier in the same rehab center and she became smitten with him because he was fun to talk to. My Dad had to be in rehab several times over the year and she was in and out of the same rehab, so they had fun together when they were in there at the same time. She was a very independent lady before she ended up in the nursing home. I do not know how many years she had been wheelchair bound but she took that wheelchair out in the community using the busing services. She went shopping and to events…she did not let the wheel chair dominate her life. Then she fell out of her wheelchair and could not get to a phone…eleven hours later, a neighbor noticed that her light was on in her home in the early hours and went to check on her. The neighbor found her…her leg bent underneath her and due to being bent for eleven hours, she lost the use of that leg, which brought her to the nursing home. It was decided (by whom I do not know) that she could not live in her own home any longer.  So, to hear of her death…the death of someone who did not appear ill or had heart issues or anything indicating she would die soonish…well, it took me by surprise. My Dad was supposed to meet up with her in the morning before he left for his doctors appointment. He could not find her. When he got back, the staff informed him that she had died that morning. He was shocked, to say the least. I was shocked when he told me. I thought, surely they will do an autopsy and find out what had happened. My first thought was that it was assisted suicide but how could that be? She was not on life support and even though she had a nerve disease…the reason she was in the wheel chair to begin with, it did not seem like it had progressed to immediate terminal…just future terminal, you know? But my Dad assured me that could not be…and then I thought maybe she committed suicide all by herself because she hated living there…she was no longer in her own home…she was handicapped and even more so now that she lost the use of her leg…but surely that could not be either. She was too vibrant of a human being to want to take that path. All we could come up with was an aneurysm…or a heart attack. Later that evening, the lady’s daughter stopped in and talked to Dad and tried to explain to him that her mom was sick, which we knew but maybe it was some sort of sickness that we could not see. The next day, her daughter came to visit Dad again because her mom had left my dad her wheelchair. My Dad had looked for the same wheelchair because it was so easy to turn and use….now, how would someone who suddenly died know to leave a wheel chair to my Dad?  This is when Dad found out that it was an assisted suicide. Apparently she hated being in the nursing home so much that she no longer wanted to live any longer. The weekend away with family and friends was her chance to tell everyone good bye…and anyone she told that she was leaving the earth soon was made to swear to not say anything to my Dad because she thought he would try to talk her out of doing it. So…in the end, she was still independent and did it her way. Her leaving life this way saddens me. Though I have not walked in her shoes and did not know what she had to deal with on a daily basis…it still saddens me that she left too soon. She still had so much life in her and things she could have taught people…her grandchildren got short changed with her leaving early…granted, her family lost a member but we outsiders lost too. I will never get to ask her what color her lipstick was or where all she lived and what was her favorite thing to do before she got wheelchair bound. So many questions I should have asked but didn’t because I thought I’d have more time. My Dad won’t get to pick her up from the nursing home for the day and take her to lunch like they had planned. He’ll no longer have her phone calls to look forward to once he is back in his home…

Over the time of writing this piece, I have found more information about her death. The disease she was inflicted with had progressed to the point that her arms would be purple each morning due to lack of oxygen. Less oxygen was getting to her brain and she was having memory lapses. She did not want to get to a point that she would not be able to make a choice herself on living or dying. She was a strong woman and wanted to go out on her own terms, not end up hooked to life support and her children having to disconnect the machines that kept her in the land of the living.

I understand better now why she did what she did. And I realize that she truly cared about my dad and did not want to see the pain in his eyes if she told him what she planned to do. She also worried about his health and knew that this type of news would have put stress upon my dad’s heart and cause him issues or possibly death. She was a strong person who advocated for others and in the end, advocated for herself and the choices that she wanted to make. She is an inspiration to others and I am blessed to have met her.

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