FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Joy and Sorrow

Written on April 16th.

I had emailed David Ker Thomson, telling him I was going to sit shiva. On the way to this shiva sitting with my best friend Joan, who’s Jewish, I mentioned that we were sitting shiva and she said: “No, you’re not sitting shiva. You will be sitting with someone who’s sitting shiva.” We learn.

The next day, Friday, April 8, my sister Laura phoned to tell me our mother had fainted and fallen and that they were on their way to the emergency room. Against Mother’s wishes, Laura had called 911.

After Daddy’s death, Mother said goodbye to medical screenings and physicals. She had symptoms she minimized and often remarked, “Something’s got to take you.” The trip to the hospital provided some answers about her condition: a mass in the colon and extreme anemia. Mother’s choice: an exit strategy. She would starve herself to death, taking only a little water and ice chips. At home.

I flew to KY on Saturday.

I’ve written about my mother. She’s the smartest woman I know, sassy, funny, and a hellcat. For years, she was chairwoman of the local Republican Party but she evolved into a screaming progressive. George W. Bush repelled her. When she heard him speak, she said he was too stupid to be president. She and my father opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and when my nephew Chase was killed in Iraq, they were vocal, placing responsibility for their grandson’s death with Bush and Cheney’s lust for oil and U.S. imperialism.

The hospice bed is in the room across from mine. This morning, we washed her face and used No-Rinse Shampoo to clean her hair. “I’m making you look like Mrs. Frankenstein,” I said as I combed her hair up and over the pillow. She smiled.

I keep thinking about that email to David–shiva sitting. I am sitting shiva. Or pre-shiva.

Laura, her partner Erma, and I are a sisterhood. We love, listen, encourage, cry, ease pain, and nurse, cleaning the body, undaunted by excretions and secretions and their odors. We know. We know what needs to be done and we do it, with tenderness. The squeamish aren’t helpful at the deathbed. It’s blood, sweat, shit, and tears. This is real life.

We’re the family of love, crying together, a river of tears this week but, also, we’ve reminisced about a lifetime of happiness. We were raised by parents who were devoted to one another and to us.

The hospice team said starvation isn’t painful. It is for us, as we tell our mother how much we love her and wonder when the worst, living without her, will begin. Mother thought they’d bring a pill at some point, to end her life quickly. We explained that this is illegal. It shouldn’t be. It would be humane.

April 17th.

Today, Mother’s so weak–nine days without food. I look at her and the faces of my siblings. I think about life–this unchoreographed dance of joy and sorrow and something or someone’s cutting in with an in-between. And death’s encroachment. My senses are heightened. Mother’s breathing is harsh, yet birds are singing. Throughout the world, babies are taking their first breaths. One of our hospice nurses is pregnant, due in July.

We’ve told Mother that she and Daddy will be together soon. This is what she believes and we whisper in her ear that we are loving her into Daddy’s arms. Laura sat by her bed and read love notes Daddy had written to her during their 62 years of marriage. There are hundreds.

She died at 9:00 p.m.

When two men from the funeral home came for her body, they told us to go to another room, to avoid watching as they took Mother out of the house. I said no. Laura and I walked behind the gurney out the front door, down the sidewalk, and said goodbye to our mother as they put her in a van and closed the doors.

Missy Beattie is in Kentucky with family. She’s a member of Compassion and Choices and Final Exit, believing in the right to choose the time and place of one’s death. Reach her at missybeat@gmail.com.

 

More articles by:

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 25, 2020
Michael Hudson
The Democrats’ Quandary: In a Struggle Between Oligarchy and Democracy, Something Must Give
Paul Street
The “Liberal” Media’s Propaganda War on Bernie Sanders
Sheldon Richman
The Non-Intervention Principle
Nicholas Levis
The Real Meaning of Red Scare 3.0
John Feffer
Cleaning Up Trump’s Global Mess
David Swanson
How Are We Going to Pay for Saving Trillions of Dollars?
Ralph Nader
Three Major News Stories That Need To Be Exposed
John Eskow
What Will You Do If the Democrats Steal It from Sanders?
Dean Baker
What If Buttigieg Said That He Doesn’t Accept the “Fashionable” View That Climate Change is a Problem?
Jack Rasmus
The Nevada Caucus and the Desperation of Democrat Elites
Howard Lisnoff
The Powerful Are Going After Jane Fonda Again
Binoy Kampmark
Viral Losses: Australian Universities, Coronavirus and Greed
John W. Whitehead
Gun-Toting Cops Endanger Students and Turn Schools into Prisons
Marshall Sahlins
David Brooks, Public Intellectual
February 24, 2020
Stephen Corry
New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind
M. K. Bhadrakumar
How India’s Modi is Playing on Trump’s Ego to His Advantage
Jennifer Matsui
Tycoon Battle-Bots Battle Bernie
Robert Fisk
There’s Little Chance for Change in Lebanon, Except for More Suffering
Rob Wallace
Connecting the Coronavirus to Agriculture
Bill Spence
Burning the Future: the Growing Anger of Young Australians
Eleanor Eagan
As the Primary Race Heats Up, Candidates Forget Principled Campaign Finance Stands
Binoy Kampmark
The Priorities of General Motors: Ditching Holden
George Wuerthner
Trojan Horse Timber Sales on the Bitterroot
Rick Meis
Public Lands “Collaboration” is Lousy Management
David Swanson
Bloomberg Has Spent Enough to Give a Nickel to Every Person Whose Life He’s Ever Damaged
Peter Cohen
What Tomorrow May Bring: Politics of the People
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon?
Weekend Edition
February 21, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Election Con 2020: Exposing Trump’s Deception on the Opioid Epidemic
Joshua Frank
Bloomberg is a Climate Change Con Man
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Billion Dollar Babies
Paul Street
More Real-Time Reflections from Your Friendly South Loop Marxist
Jonathan Latham
Extensive Chemical Safety Fraud Uncovered at German Testing Laboratory
Ramzy Baroud
‘The Donald Trump I know’: Abbas’ UN Speech and the Breakdown of Palestinian Politics
Martha Rosenberg
A Trump Sentence Commutation Attorneys Generals Liked
Ted Rall
Bernie Should Own the Socialist Label
Louis Proyect
Encountering Malcolm X
Kathleen Wallace
The Debate Question That Really Mattered
Jonathan Cook
UN List of Firms Aiding Israel’s Settlements was Dead on Arrival
George Wuerthner
‘Extremists,’ Not Collaborators, Have Kept Wilderness Whole
Colin Todhunter
Apocalypse Now! Insects, Pesticide and a Public Health Crisis  
Stephen Reyna
A Paradoxical Colonel: He Doesn’t Know What He is Talking About, Because He Knows What He is Talking About.
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A New Solar Power Deal From California
Richard Moser
One Winning Way to Build the Peace Movement and One Losing Way
Laiken Jordahl
Trump’s Wall is Destroying the Environment We Worked to Protect
Walden Bello
Duterte Does the Right Thing for a Change
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail