Death With Dignity
My story is not about death as the title implies…it’s truly about a well-lived and joyous life. My mom was a vigorous women her entire life; captain of the cheerleading squad in high school; married a handsome, ambitious military man; mother and ever-vigilant guardian of nine children. She mastered every part of her life with a gusto and enthusiasm that few have the courage to muster. Strong, feminine and self-determined, Mom was a complete woman in an age where that just wasn’t the fashion.
It should be no surprise based on that description that you would find that she was a strong advocate of advance directives. Simply put, an advanced directive essentially is a legal tool that allows your wishes to be followed in the event where your incapacity prevents you from doing so yourself.
Her illness and eventual passing were sudden in terms of her vigor. She remained very active and virile despite problems with Coronary Artery Disease. She endured several rounds of angioplasty where the medical team inserts a balloon catheter and inflates it within the artery to increase the blood flow. It was only a matter of time I guess that she would eventually have to have coronary by-pass surgery.
When the time came for that surgery, she knew it wasn’t going to be routine. She already had the advanced directive drawn up but it’s what she did with it that makes her situation inspiring to others. She didn’t wait until her incapacity took away her ability to express her wishes. She took the time to make sure that we all had it before her surgery. She used the advanced directive as a foil to make the grieving process in case of her death much easier. Just in case, she started with the advanced directive but expanded to how much she loved her life, her husband and her children and that if something should go wrong to where she wouldn’t be the woman we knew her to be, that we should celebrate her life and let her go. She clearly and plainly laid it out that if God was going to take her, she had some things she had to do before that happened.
In reflecting her illness and death, what she was actually doing was stating terms. If she was going to die, she was going to do so on her terms. She was going to master her death just as she did her life. If she was going to be severely disabled from her surgery, then she told us plainly and simply…I want to die in my own bed with my family around me.
True to her premonition, her surgery didn’t go well. Self-fulfilling prophecy? And true to our promise and her wishes, we were able to take her home to her bed, with her loving family surrounding her and she took her last breath with her husband and family sending her off with tears and kisses.
We truly live our lives in seconds…moments. I share this story only to compel you to take the time and write your advanced directive in spite of whatever state of health you’re in. Then take that document the next step…tell your family you love them but just in case…here’s the play book. They’ll love you for thinking of them.