Monday, July 31, 2017

Dealing with Death

Dealing with death or impending death of a loved one while also dealing with your own mind can be it's own special kind of torment.

I've been in the downward spiral of my cycle for a few weeks now, and on top of that my grandmother has been very very ill. I have also been very sick this month (hello 5 different infections in 3 weeks. Finally kicked it's ass, btw.)

But, my grandmother has been experience a decline of health for a year now. When one gets older and has had a lifetime of diabetes, one's kidneys start to lose function.  My grandmother is in no way an old frail lady, or she wasn't until a year ago when said kidneys started to fail. She's 69 years young, walked daily, avid yard sale hunter, and can turn out about a dozen quilts a year. In my younger years, she spent 9 years being my #1 fan on the softball field - every practice and every game (and I wasn't that good at it.)

While, we have seen and witnessed her decline of health and her increased need for care, it's human nature to think she will recover and everything will be rainbows and unicorns. Maybe it's my messed up brain, maybe it's logic, but she will die, maybe not today, maybe not next week, but it is the only outcome. Doesn't mean it hurts less, or that there isn't going to be a huge hole where the matriarch of our family was.

I may come across as calloused and uncaring, I assure you, it's the exact opposite -fighting tears in Wendy's drive-thru just thinking about it yesterday and today while writing this post.

There's this thing in our culture that when a person is sick and is approaching death, we hover. We want to be close to them, get in our last moments, it may be our last chance. Maybe it's where I avoid confrontation and avoid adulting, but I can't do that. I've spent the last month being lectured by my father to see her (understandably, I've been fighting my own 5 infections, and they haven't pushed so much.) It may be just me, but I don't want to have my memory of her be her confined to a bed, barely able to talk or lift her head. I know her. She is embarrassed from being in that position. She feels like she's a burden to us, that she's only a shadow of what she once was, that she is a problem. I know where I get my stubborn pride from, and she doesn't want us to view her this way.

It's saddens me to say, that I believe she has lost the will to live. She is fully coherent and cognizant. She is aware of what's happening; she's a retired nurse, so she knows what her body is doing, how unlikely treatment will be effective, and her realistic chances of being able to return to a self sufficiency. She told my father she has "made her peace with God." and has refused dialysis treatment for two weeks. She knows uremia will end her. She's tired of fighting.

So here is where the moral dilemma can arise. Is she considered suicidal? Or is this "nature's way"?   As someone who has struggled with suicidal thoughts and have attempted it on occasion, I am empathetic to her. Doesn't she have the right to choose to not seek treatment and to die on her terms? It's not outright suicide; it's not euthanasia; is it neglect on her caretakers' part?  Can we force her to have medical  procedures done, when she retains her full medical power of attorney? No, she is an adult and she is making her choices. We may not like them, but we are to respect them. Or should we throw respect and personal wishes aside, and seek a judge to declare her incapable and assume power over her medical decisions? I kinda think that's a dirty thing to do. I should also mention just to be relevant, that my grandmother is the kind of woman to have her ducks in a row. She planned and paid for her own funeral at the beginning of her illness. She wrote her own eulogy for the newspaper. She filed her final wishes at the courthouse. She made it clear what she wanted when this all began a year ago.

So that's where I am right now. That is how I deal with approaching loss. I write my way through it. I look at it from her perspective, I think on options and morality, I ask questions. Putting my thoughts down and out of my head helps keep my crazy away. I can then proceed forward and be there for my family.

Just a Little Help

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