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Monday, May 28, 2012

If I may be serious for a moment...

I fully intend to write my usual light-hearted Monday post. But for the moment, I must to get something off my chest.

I heard from my stepdad on Friday. My mother is now in what they call "end-stage hospice," where she's being watched 24/7. He said she doesn't even respond to him anymore. She doesn't make eye contact, and if she makes any sound, it's a grunt. All she does now is lie there and cough. She won't eat. She reacts to nothing.

It could be days. It could be weeks. Or longer. Because despite the fact that her mind is completely blasted and her body is deteriorating, her heart beats on and on, strongly.

I can't do anything about this. But I can say that I am furious. This is an absolute disgrace. No one should have to end a productive and vibrant life in such a degrading state. In this country, we treat our animals with more dignity and respect than we do our humans.

John and I don't see eye to eye on this. He gets squeamish when I say I wish it would end. "You can't wish people dead; that's not right," he says. I'm not doing anything of the sort. My mother died a long time ago. What exists now is a shell. I wish for that shell to rest, to join her spirit. I wish for the indignity to end.

My stepmother and I have been emailing about this a bit. She is a staunch advocate of end-of-life choices, and she has told me that her wish, should she have a terminal illness or lose her mind (and her dignity), is to be relocated to one of the pitiful few states in this country (what is it now, four out of fifty?) where euthanasia is legal. Fortunately, her husband and family are on board with this. She also told me about an organization called Compassion and Choices, and I intend to join it. I can't afford to be a benefactor, but I will involve myself in it nonetheless, and fully educate myself now, while I still have my brain. Because I will not end up like my mother. I_Will_Not. There is no fucking way that I will end my life that way. I've spent the good years of my life living on my own terms, and I'm going to exit on my own terms as well, dammit. Quality over quantity. When life ceases to have quality, it's time to say adios.

Sorry. Rant over. You may now return to your barbecues and whatever else you're doing to enjoy your Memorial Day weekend. I intend to celebrate my 16-year spankiversary tomorrow, and forget about this crap for a while.


  1. Hello, I am from Germany and we have the same problem. We make more fuss abuot dogs and cats than we think of our relatives.
    It is a pitty and I wish you the best you can have
    , inculding what you want
    kind regards, Ralph

  2. Hi Erica
    Quality over quantity every time. We have the same problem in England where you can be convicted of manslaughter if you take a loved one to Switzerland to die with dignity. Most of the time this sort of thing is normally controlled by religious nuts and do gooders that will never go through it themselves. If someone said to me you will live another 5 years if you completely changed your life style I can’t see me living a miserable existence for an extra few years.
    Thanks for the rant needed saying especially if you are going through it at the moment.

    BOB B

  3. Hear, hear! I totally agree with you.

  4. I went thorough this with my Mother. We were never close, but seeing her when she did not know who anyone was, could not feed herself, stared blankly, etc. took a toll on me that still lasts 10 years later. A horrible end and it happens everyday.

  5. Erica,

    I agree with you and I guess there are those who are afraid of abuses, but we should let people go in dignity. One thing about it is your mother is most likely oblivious at this point to her condition. I hope she will go quickly. It's tough and you know you can always let us know how you are doing. We are here for you.

  6. Ralph -- I love animals. But it seems to me that humans should have AT LEAST the same rights that our pets do.

    Bob -- manslaughter?? Good lord. And don't even get me started on the religious right and "God's will," because I will go ballistic and offend everyone, which I don't wish to do.

    Dana -- thank you.

    OBB -- I'm sorry. It is a terrible thing to witness.

    Bobbie Jo -- I appreciate that. I hope she will too.

  7. Hi Erica -- I am VERY sorry about your mom :-( poor thing,this is TERRIBLE.I am alway's here for you too.I am going through this with my Grandmother :-( this is so sad and upsetting for anyone to have to go through,I wish you the best alway's.I Love you big hug's from your naughty girl Jade xoxo

  8. Hi Erica,

    I'm so sorry you're going through this...I hope your mom's journey can end as painlessly as possible...for all parties involved.

    On a sunnier thought, how are you celebrating your spankiversary?


  9. I'm a big supporter of letting people decide when they want to shuffle off the mortal coil. If I'm going to be alive I want to enjoy it and, if I can no longer enjoy it, I don't want to be alive.

    Erica, I am completely in support of your view. It may sound dark, but I think it would be much more compassionate to let the body die when the mind is already gone.

  10. Jade -- thank you, dear.

    SC -- nothing out of the ordinary planned, just going to hang out and play with my bestest of tops. :-D

    Anonymous -- thanks. I do know my view is dark, and not for everyone. But it's definitely for me, especially after what I'm witnessing with my mother.

  11. I am so sorry that your Mom's health has diminished so much more. My Dad was in hospice care and died at home this past New Year's Eve, with my Mom and I by his side. The last several days were brutal as he died by inches -- and I am only being so starkly honest because many people had encouraged me to fly bcd to be with him the last month of his life (in NC). Having just gone through it, I can say with selfish honesty that I wish I had NOT been there to watch it. So, if others are saying that to you, despite some inevitable guilt that may crop up, please don't feel pressure to be there and see images that will linger (unless you want to be there, then that's a different story).

    And, even if her heart is beating is healthy and beating strong, one positive thing in this whole upside down morality over human "life" at the end stages is that hospice will not continue feeding her via IV fluids or any other means to prolong her agony, but they will give her enough pain medication to ensure that even though she cannot communicate it, she will not feel pain. All this to say, without food or water, there will soon come a peaceful ending to this tragedy.

    If I've overstepped here, please forgive me. Having just gone through this, I personally would have felt grateful if just one person assured me it was okay not to be there if I didn't feel good about it. So I wanted to be that one person for you.


  12. Pam -- no, you did not overstep. I am so very sorry for what you had to go through with your father.

    No, fortunately, no one is pressuring me to be there. I've already seen enough images that will haunt me. I don't need to watch her die. My stepdad would not ask that of me. I've said my goodbyes.

    Thank you for being so open and kind.

  13. Erica- I fully understand how you feel.

    2 years ago my stepmother died and my father (who was 98) gave up and just wanted to die. Although I was not there much as I was in the process of moving to Greece. I visited him in March and it was clear then he was letting himself go, and I visited in August and the difference was very marked. He basically said to me in March that he wanted to die and that was repeated in August.

    I returned home, and in October I got the call "get your backside over here" and managed to make it the afternoon before he died. The home told both my sister and myself that he had held on until I got there.

    I stayed in the UK for a month doing all the necessary bits with my sister and in his bits and pieces a note was found addressed to me. It was the last thing that he ever wrote.

    The laws in the UK are so draconian (as mentioned in an earlier comment) that it made his last few months difficult for us as we saw him waste away by choice.

    I hope for your sake that your mother quickly passes away peacefully as it can be very hard for you and the family to see a loved one "waste" (it's not the right word, but I can't think of another one) away.

    I know in our family, apart from the pain we felt watching my father slip away, we were expected to get on with Life in the best way that we could.


  14. Longbean -- I really am touched by people such as yourself sharing your personal stories. Thank you, and I'm sorry for what you had to go through. Your poor dad. I'm glad you got to say good-bye.

    My mother first started deteriorating when she was 84, and she's now 90. This has been going on for a looooong time and you know what? It's enough already. She deserves some peace.

  15. I totally agree with you Erica. Everyone should have a choice how to die when it's time.

    I hope the time your mother has left is a pain free one for her.


  16. Ronnie -- thank you, dear. I hope so too.

  17. My feelings are if I CAN'T live whole, then I don't WANT to live at ALL!

  18. Kelly -- that's what I say, too. But then people scoff at me and say, "Wait until you're in that situation." I'd like to believe I know my own mind well enough to know what I'd choose, even if I'm in the throes of that dilemma.

  19. I'm so sorry that you and your loved ones are going through this. So many people stress doing a living will while one is able to keep those hard choices from falling on the family's shoulders. I've made it clear to mine that if things can't improve, I want to move on.

  20. Lea -- I know there is a "no heroic measures" thing in place with my mother. But they can't willfully withhold treatment (or food, etc.) either. Trouble is, even without heroic measures, they're not doing her any favors keeping her going. (sigh)

  21. Erica

    OMG- 6 years of it, that is horrible. I do hope that your mother finds her release in a peacefully.

    The hospice will be used to caring for people such as your mother so she will be able to pass away in her own time and with as much dignity as is possible in such difficult circumstances.


  22. My heart goes out to you, Erica. "In this country, we treat our animals with more dignity and respect than we do our humans" is almost an exact quote from my late, beloved great-aunt during her final days. I like the wise and loving comments everyone has made here; adding my love.