(Still tied up with the class. Here’s more filler until I have time to write real posts.)
Thanksgiving! I’ve got half an hour to write until the turkey goes in and true bedlam begins.
I seem to be spending most of my time with Janice these days reassuring her that, Yes. Of course. Just like everyone else who’s ever lived from the dawn of time, she, too, is going to die. She’s survived so many things, so many times now, it’s gotten ridiculous and she’s starting to battle horrifying visions of immortality. I can’t help but laugh, yet feel a wave of compassion at the same time.
Whenever she starts moaning about it I point out every sign of decline I can think of, and when I hit on something that resonates her eyes light up with hope. Yesterday, we talked about two things that have to take place before a person can finally go. One is advanced disease in the body and the other is a surrender of sorts; a person gradually lets go of the drive to live, the one that makes them get up day after day. I’ve seen signs of this in Janice lately. Since she moved to the nursing home she sleeps a lot of the time and rarely participates in any activities. She told me yesterday there are times when she doesn’t want to eat and she even said she feels “dead” inside most of the time now, which is, of course, a classic description of the depression she doesn’t believe in and refuses to treat.
So, casting about for some way to cheer her up I mentioned, “Y’know, Janice, those things might be a sign that you’re finally surrendering.” She perked right up.
“Really? Do you think I’ll die after all?”
God, what a character.
She’s slowly, slowly turning in some kind of invisible womb, her head shifting gradually downward toward the birth canal, preparing for her journey through the passage that connects this world to whatever comes next. Regular activities are losing their grip and she’s starting to drift, turning increasingly to the doorway of sleep and its other dimensions. She tells me her daughter keeps encouraging her to take part in the facility’s activities, that she would be happier if she did.
But Janice looks at me, distraught, and says, “She just doesn’t understand. I can’t. I don’t feel good enough.”
It would be so hard to be ready to go, to long for it, and still be stuck here. Day after day. Year after year, dealing with constant pain and constant loss and constantly diminishing ability. It’s so weird—how some people can want so desperately to live but die anyway, and how others seem to get trapped. Wouldn’t it be great if there was some kind of cosmic barter system set up where we could trade final time with one another?
“I’ll give you three of my unwanted years for your quickie.”
I hope I don’t die of congestive heart failure or M.S. or Alzheimer’s, something long and protracted. Please God, can I have cancer or something else shorter? Not a heart attack or a car crash though…I’d like time to say my good-byes, to let Cal and Lorin and McKenna know how much I love them. It would be unbearable to leave without being able to tell them one last time.
After we talked I drove Janice over to the bank, and while we were sitting in the drive-through she spotted a Dollar Store across the parking lot. Boy, did her eyes light up! I asked if she wanted to go in and she grew more excited than I’ve seen her in months. She looked…dare I say it? Happy.
(Everyone says that, during dying, hearing is the last thing to go. But watching Janice yesterday I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps, with women, it’s really our love of a great bargain.)
She couldn’t shop for very long, of course, as it was a big store with a lot of stuff. But she stubbornly managed to drag herself…doubled over her walker and sucking strangled huffs of oxygen in a way that alarmed everyone within hearing—up and down a couple of aisles before grabbing some crackers and gasping that she was ready to go. By the time I wrestled her back into the car she looked bloodless, ghastly, and absolutely euphoric.
“That…was so…much…fun!” She wheezed and gazed up at me with grateful eyes from where she’d slumped to the bottom of the seat. “I really…enjoyed…that!”
She so delights me. This Thanksgiving I’m grateful I took Janice to the dollar store.”
copyright Dia Osborn 2011