There are good deaths; there are bad deaths. My mother is having a bad one, and she doesn’t deserve it. Thanks to modern medicine many people get a decade, or so, of “bonus” years where they can enjoy active, healthy lives. On the other hand, there are some who, due to any number of illnesses, live on but in pain or like my mother become oblivious to their surroundings. In her early eighties she was stricken with Alzheimer’s. For the first few years she could function at home as long as family and helpers came in regularly to assist her. As the disease progressed, and she became delusional, she resided in a facility that specialized in dementia. If it wasn’t sad it would be funny when she asked the male patients to get her pregnant and perform sexual acts that you think your mother never even heard of. She lost the filter in her brain that told her when to keep her mouths shut and would yell out, “Look at that fat ass,” when an obese woman walked by. There came a point when she could no longer stand up on her own and had to go into a nursing facility.
Now she is at the end and under hospice care. She is totally non-verbal and needs a hoyer lift, a mechanical device, to move her from her bed to a chair where she reclines in a semi-fetal position. All her regular medications, the ones for high cholesterol, hypertension have been finally stopped because her organs are breaking down. Even rubbing a Q-tip along her gums is apt to cause bleeding.
While we usually don’t know how we will leave this world, most of us prefer the quick, in-our-sleep, hopefully painless way. I read that even when your mind is gone your body still feels pain and reacts. My mother is on a synthetic form of morphine because of this. There are times she looks like she is about to cry, but there are no tears; just a tremulous, turned-down mouth, a wrinkling of the brow that seems to plead, Somebody help me. Let me die. I tell her to go to the light.