Confessions of a Death Doula: How I’d like to die.

Ckoke on froasting

I recently took one of those very credible Facebook quizzes titled, How Will You Die Based on Your Name?”  The results were quite sobering!  It said I would die at the hands of a Serial Killer! The reasoning was that I seem to always find myself “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”  I thought this was very interesting, as I wasn’t even aware of that fact!  Hmmm?

My favorite fantasy about how I will die, has always been the one where I am climbing a mountain (just some random mountain) in Nepal (I know bad timing, right?) on the last day of a 3 week holiday.  The lack of air and strenuous exercise suddenly causes my 80+ year old body to suffer a massive and quite fatal heart attack right there on the side of the mountain. Boom!  That’s it, I’m gone.  It is a gloriously sunny day and for some unknown very cool and spiritual reason, the Sherpas decide that I should be left there on the side of the mountain, to be one with the elements, nature and God.

Hey… stop sniggering! It could happen!

In my more rational, reasonable, down to earth moments,  I believe it will in fact be a heart attack, but I may be doing something a bit more innocuous, like having a meal or reading a book, and that will be ok too.

My father had three heart attacks, the last of which, killed him.  It was a beautiful June day and he was tending the flowers planted around the stature of the Virgin Mary, who was standing in the half buried bath tub in the back yard. (No, I’m not kidding… Google “Bathtub with Mary in it.”)  Anyway, he died in his own back yard, with the Virgin Mary (his Patron Saint) looking down on him, with her beautiful, loving eyes and he was surrounded by the flowers he had planted to honor her.  What a way to go, right?

I hope it is a heart attack that takes me and not cancer like so many of my family members, but I know I have no control over it…  it will happen, how it happens.

If it is a heart attack and I’m in my 60’s or young 70’s and still fairly healthy, “Hell yes,” please let the medical team do all they can to help me!  However, if I’ve had numerous heat attacks, in a poorly state and we all know it’s just a matter of time before, “the big one,” please, just leave me be.

I’m good with just being made comfortable and letting nature take it’s course.  Feed me, water (or wine) me…  I hear marijuana might be good for my appetite, keeping me calm and relieving my anxiety, you may want to consider that…  Just let me live out my days in peace, without lots of tubes and beeping machines.

If it’s cancer…  and it’s terminal, sorry, I’m out.  I have no interest in the medical heroics of chemotherapy, radiation, multiple surgeries and the rest, all just to buy me a few years.  I don’t want that for myself and I don’t want that for my family.

My Mom had lung cancer.  After 18 months, numerous radiation treatments, one lung surgery and two brain surgeries she died anyway.  I think she would have preferred to have been left alone to eat, drink, travel and be with her family as long as she could, and then die.  …but, there you go, hindsight is 20/20.

If I’m in an accident or have a debilitating stoke or serious illness of some kind that will change my life forever and leave me in a vegetative state, PLEASE do not hold onto me! Do not let me linger like that! Pull the plug or take me to the Netherlands and lets be done with it!  Again, the thought of listening to hissing, beeping, wining machines operating behind my head for the rest of my life (no matter how short a period that might be) is not an option I want to consider.  Let me go, it will be better for all of us.

I believe my brother Charlie died on his own terms… he did the chemo, went back, heard the prognosis and lived out the final months of his life exactly as he wanted to.   He ate, drank, smoked his Marlboros, watched football and bet on the horse races!  He didn’t complain or ask why, he didn’t talk about regrets or things he wished he had done.  In fact he was the first to admit he had truly “lived’ life to the fullest and it was perhaps his lifestyle and zest for life that brought him to where he was.  He was scared, but he was ok with dying.

If I am on my way out, but have some time and don’t need machines to keep me going, I think I’d prefer to be in a hospice environment, as opposed to my home. I don’t want Nick and my family tripping over me in the front room, while they’re trying to watch the telly!

I have started to take note of the things I want around me; my beautiful purple tartan blanket, some of my rocks and crystals, all of my favorite music (Nick will know the tracks!); some of my plants… and most important a computerized projection set up that will project (onto the wall in front of me)  all of the photographs collected through the years.

I want to be bombarded 24/7 with a non-stop visual blizzard that will represent the story of my life!  I want to see my Mom, Dad and brothers; photos of me as that cute little 5 year old and that dorky 12 year old me; photos of my kids throughout their lives and my beautiful grandsons! I want to see photos of my travels, the birthday parties, the weekend excursions, all the wonderful Christmases we had; I want to see it all!  Every time I open my eyes, I want to be looking at a still of a single glorious moment of my life, captured, larger than life right there in front of me.

And when it’s time for me to go, I will take every single one of those beautiful, amazing, priceless images; I’ll lock them away in my soul, along with all the love they represent….  and I’ll go.

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