My friend John Schappi’s blog post today about death and dying prompted me to go back and write down a post I thought through but couldn’t get out during my recent period of writer’s block. My brain worked overtime on this subject a few weeks ago when my mother thought she had had a stroke. I wanted to write it down and make it public because of her admonishment to me at the time – “no tubes; just remember that.”
“No tubes” is just the short expression of what I know she requires of me: I must be prepared to follow the dictates of her health care directive. That means no resuscitation, no tube feeding, no mechanical breathing, no CPR. It’s all written in a document she signed in 2010 naming my sister Paula as her health care surrogate and me as the alternate.
I’m glad to report that Mom didn’t have a stroke. Still, I need to make sure it’s understood – just in case anyone else in our family, or any of her friends, have questions about it: I will do as she wants, and I’m sure Paula will, too.
Don’t get me wrong – I’d like to see her live a while longer, at least as long as she can carry on a normal, functional life. She still has a very active social life, and her friends take good care of her. She still wins or places high in duplicate bridge games with top players. She reads even more than I do, and she crochets. She lives alone, drives as little as possible, and drives us all crazy with her dependence on electronic devices she doesn’t really understand. Pretty good for a 93-year-old, if you ask me ...
But if it’s up to me there will be no extraordinary measures to prolong her life if she gets into trouble. She doesn’t want a jolt to restart her heart, or a pump to breathe for her, or to eat through a tube. When the time comes she’s ready to join the 100% of people who eventually die.
When the time comes, I hope I can be as matter-of-fact about it as I am now. Even if I become emotional, though, she’ll get what she needs from me. She’s lived a long time, and been good to lots of people along the way, so I figure she’s earned it.