Tuesday, October 18, 2005

How I die

I am middle aged. I think I'm dying of something degenerative, although it could be an accident that's left me with only a few hours. It's something that is slow enough, but quick enough, for me to know when I'm going to go. That is a control thing, isn't it? But there you have it. We mostly don't think of dying alone, nor without some measure of decision about the situation (though of course that's rarely the case). At any rate, I just need time to finish up a few things.

I am in hospital, and surrounded with family and there is at least one priest there (maybe more, or at least fellow parishoners). I know I'm not that old, because my parents are there, or at least my mother. And my sister, certainly, and my husband. But probably not my brother. And no children, so I guess I haven't had any. Actually, besides J, I’m surrounded by women. The priest is also one, although that’s not all that surprising since all the important priests in my life are female. Yes, it’s a circle of women – healing, giving life, giving support. Because that’s what we do.

I want the priest there because I love the Anglican last rites liturgy. This goes back to the control thing. I want that ceremony - it's beautiful and it's a good way to leave this world. And so I want to die in a way that gives time for it to happen, but also is severe enough that the rite is considered necessary.

I hope there are incense and candles and oil. I want to be anointed and sent off after taking Christ's body and blood. And prayers should be read, and psalms chanted, and we should also sing a hymn or two. If Durufle's Requiem could be done, that would be super.

This is a good death. Probably will not happen, but there it is. I know people are rarely fortunate enough to go holding their spouse's hand, but I can hope for it.

Then again, I want to do that for him. It would suck, but I'd rather be the one to go through it than him be in that much pain (I assume he'd be in pain - ha ha). I'd like to hold him as he goes. I can't really imagine either of us without the other, or watching the other die. That's a weirdness. I can imagine being single but it's more a pre-J thing. Post-J. What would that be?

Anyway, those are some of my imaginings. Funny that I'm young. Another person in my group said he'd be 80, and another 32 (he's 25!). So I guess I'm in the happy middle.

Would it be sad to die without children? Without having done something that feels like a life's work? (I don't mean only kids, I mean having done something real with my life)

But I don't want to be here and not be here. I'm saying right now, in print: pull the plug on me. I'm a fan of DNR, even of assisted suicide, maybe? My faith tells me that it's better not to hold on to this life at all costs.

And I want a green burial. But since that part of it is rather out of my hands, I'll let my family do whatever helps them with the process. I wouldn't insist on anything (heck, it's their money, time, and grief). But I love eco-friendly burial methods and the idea of decomposing naturally in a forest, feeding the earth. I'd like a home wake too. I need to die 100 years ago, huh?

Anyway, enough fantasizing about death. I'm so dramatic.

Come to think of it, I actually probably couldn't take J's death without going completely mad. My reaction to Kitty's recent illness scared me. I went completely ballistic. J apologized later and took some of the blame - it was his callousness to the situation that made me feel I had to bear the burden of pain for both of us. Imagine if only one parent of a child could feel for that loss - their pain would be (at least) doubled, on behalf of their spouse, would it not? And I know the cat is nothing like a child and her loss wouldn't compare, but to me she is the closest I've got.

So that’s how I go (to quote a great film). How about you?

1 comment:

Emilie said...

Wow, it's so refreshing to read about this! Strange to say about a topic like death, but I wish more people (including my aging parents) were less freaked out about even thinking about it. Your class must be really interesting. (By the way, I'm the one who posted a few months ago about Trappist Caskets.) :)

I want a green burial, too, but I don't know how to go about pre-planning it enough to make it easy for my loved ones. I don't want to be embalmed, but I may need to make a concession for other people's travel plans (i.e. funeral/burial not being within the legally permitted time for non-embalming, which in my state is 72 hours, I think). I, too, would like a home wake, preferably with lots of alcohol and jokes.

As for how I go? I'd like it to be while my mind is still clear, and I'd like enough advance knowledge to prepare everything and have my loved ones at my bedside (at home or hospice) to pray with me and tell me jokes and sing songs to me and generally love me off (so to speak). Maybe I'm about 85, so I can celebrate 50 years of marriage to my husband. But maybe I'm younger. I hate to say it, but I think I'd rather endure the pain of cancer than the fog of Alzheimer's (which runs in the family).

My husband tells me he wants me to tell him jokes as he's going, to make him laugh, and of course this very thought makes me cry. It's hard for me to imagine him dying.