When is it OK to Die?

“No matter what you do in this life, you’ll never make it out alive.” I think, whether we choose to acknowledge it or ignore it, on some level we understand that we are going to die some day. It is a fact. Some people may be facing death right now, having been told they only have so long left to live. Some people die at a ripe old age content with what they’ve achieved. Some go suddenly without the slightest hint of an impending upheaval of life.

Nobody is safe from death.

If you’re a long-tern reader you are familiar with some of my previous posts. My grandmother, to be quite frank, is at the end of her life. She has been on hospice care for over a year. Those of you who are familiar with healthcare know that that is unusual. Usually, if a person is on Hospice Care it means that their life functions have declined so much, that they often have no more than three to six months to live. Medical professionals will recommend when hospice care is necessary and it is usually nothing more than to offer comfort measures until the person passes away. If you are on Hospice Care there is no “getting better”.

Despite being on Hospice we are over the one year mark and my grandmother is still with us. Her vital signs have not been stable on more than one occasion (Which usually is a sign that everything is shutting down, people tend not to bounce back from these changes when they are on Hospice Care). Recently I was told that she might not make it to my next trip out to the family.

I’d had a flight booked for 12 days later.. They told me she might not make it until then. I had to consider going home early. I decided not to. I was going to stick to my scheduled flight unless the unfortunate had occurred, in which I would go home sooner. The only reason I even felt remotely comfortable with waiting was because I had been back home very recently and had said my goodbyes then because I was told she might not make it. We’ve been told several times over the course of a year that “she might not make it”.

She’s still making it.

I do not blame medical professionals nor I am upset to have heard that so many times. They are going by what they see and what the norm is. My grandmother is not the norm. She has always been very strong willed, a fighter, and honestly quite stubborn. I do not, by any means, want my grandmother to pass away. If I had my way I’d let my grandmother live another 100 years.

That’s not an option.

My grandmother may be alive but she is not living. She suffered from Alzheimer’s/Dementia and has ceased the ability to do any of her activities of daily life. She can not eat on her own, she can not breath on her own (concentrator), and she can not move on her own. Her eyes will move around and occasionally are glossy and transfixed on nothing. When you speak to her, you know she hears you, but she doesn’t always react. You can only hope she understands. She is barely able to speak anymore. In four days I remember only four sentences that were not really contextual and just random things she says. Those are the only things she says. Your can’t ask her any questions because she can not answer you. She can not say your name if you ask her “do you know who I am?”. She can’t tell you if she’s thirsty or if she’s hungry, which wouldn’t help because she won’t eat or drink anything anyway.

My grandmother lays before me and yet is also already gone. I hate to talk about her like she’s gone because she’s not. Sometimes I see the glimmer in her eye that let’s me know she’s in there. If I got really close to her face, so she could see me, she would smile. I took that as a way of saying “I know who you are”. I can only hope that’s what it means though.

There she is suffering. Her body is literally shutting down. I don’t want to divulge too many specifics out of respect for her and for my family, but I will say that she is, undoubtedly speaking, suffering.

Am I wrong for not wanting her to pass away? Wanting to cling to her corporeal form because of all it represents. What is the alternative? To want her to pass?

When is it ok to die?

This is a constant grief. We grieved when she couldn’t remember much. We grieved when she couldn’t walk. We grieved when she needed oxygen. We have had to grieve so many loses and yet it still won’t prepare me for the ultimate loss. No matter how much I know it’s coming, I will never be ready to hear that news.

I also know that I”m not alone. That other people have had to go through this. It’s important to talk about these things. I have friends in Hospice here in Missouri that I’v been able to talk to openly and ask questions. They are just as surprised as me that she’s “stabilized” again.

It’s just not her time yet.

God hasn’t called her yet.

I’ve heard it all. So you play the waiting game. You try to live your life as best you can. You do your day to day tasks and have moments where you forget and you don’t think about it. Sometimes you won’t think about it for 15 minutes. Sometimes you’ll go several hours at a time. That’s just how grief is. It comes and goes. It is an overwhelming swallow in the back of my throat that randomly becomes an aggressive front in my mind. A thought that can alter my mood in a moments notice.

But you have to live life. You can’t stop. You can’t play the waiting game. It’s bee “Any Day now” for 365 days at least. I could die at any day now. Hospice or not something awful could go wrong.

We can’t play the waiting game. We can’t wait for death. We can’t run to it with arms wide open. We acknowledge death. We give it the nod of respect as it passes us by and we keep going. You keep going.

Spend time with people. Eat good food. Have fun. Let go, Don’t stress things. “Life should be devoured like an apple”,

If you can be, be something great.

If you can do, do something great.

Be kind. Take the time. For the love of God, don’t wait. One day we do things for the last time, and we don’t know it was the last time until it never happens again.




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