Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A Good Death

My friend, Marilyn Heins, is a pediatrician, parent, grandparent, great-step-grandparent, and the founder of  She writes a twice-monthly column for the Arizona Daily Star, giving practical, meaningful, comfortable advice about parenting at all stages.  Her June 24th column was about the importance of having The Conversation - what do you want at the end of your life.  She began with the story of euthanizing her Cavalier King Charles spaniel.

When I think of my mother's death, I start with a pet, too.

I sat in JannyLou's kitchen, holding her as we wept.  She'd held her pooch in her lap as the vet helped him die.  We were sad, but it was a good end.  

And then, we laughed through my tears as we talked about my mother.  She was slowly fading away, aches and pains and memory loss making her alive but not really living.  How she would have welcomed such a comforting and comfortable end.

"We are kinder to our pets than we are to our people" has become our new mantra, as we watch our friends and relatives go through loss and pain and unnecessary procedures.  Somehow, we have gotten to the point where counting the days we have is more important than examining their quality. 

My family was lucky; I kissed my mom goodnight and she died during her sleep.  And, our last conversation was fabulous.  

G'ma hadn't communicated with anyone, except to say OUCH,with attitude, for a few days. That evening, as the aide put her in her Christmas nightgown (red and green plaid, it was December, I'm not sure the aide ever heard of Chanukah), I was, as usual, chatting up a storm, assuming it was as arrogant to think that G'ma didn't understand me as to think that she did.  

Pausing for a breath, offhandedly I said "You're not really here and listening, are you, Mommy?"

"Nope, I'm not," she replied.  The aide and I were stunned, but I jumped right on it.

"Where are you?"

"I'm not sure." (big smile)

"Is it okay there?"

\Her eyes roamed the ceiling.  She was seeing something, though I know not what.

"Sure.  Why wouldn't it be?" (bigger smile)

That is the closest I've ever come to hearing about what's out there after we leave here.  It's strangely comforting.

Then, dressed and comfy and tucked in, I asked if she wanted me to stay and chat or if she wanted to sleep.  She closed her eyes, turned her head on the pillow and pretend-snored.  She opened her eyes and smiled at me.  

"Okay, then. Be that way!"  I laughed, we kissed, we exchanged I love you's, and I left, crying my eyes out, much to the aide's bemusement.  

"Why are you crying?  If she goes tonight, the last words she heard were that you loved her.  And you heard the same.  Why cry?  That's beautiful."

We'd had The Conversation.  My siblings and I were on the same page. But I wish I had been there to hold her hand..


  1. Some don't want someone there when they go. That should also be respected and understood. We are different in what we need. My husband's mom waited until he had flown to Arizona for some time with me there. Of course, we then flew back as soon as we could but if she'd wanted him there, she'd have done it that way.

    1. Marilyn Heins wrote that her husband did what your MIL did. Perhaps waiting was what I wanted?

  2. Perfection. And all the feels.


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