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It’s spring, the cherry tree has burst into a cloud of buzzing blossoms, making my heartbeat surge with desire for living. I read about a 90 year old women, Norma, who after getting the diagnosis of uterine cancer declined surgery and treatment and went on an adventure, traveling with her son and daughter-in-law in their motor home around the country,having an absolute blast.
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/driving-miss-norma-90-year-old-chooses-adventure-over-cancer-treatment/. Norma will do this to her dying days. Her son is getting to know his mother in ways he never expected. I call that Living.
Many people forego treatment and let themselves have a natural death. I respect them for it. You can only fuss with repairing things for so long. Good quality of life means being able to enjoy life.
You probably know a friend, a family member, someone in your community who is dealing with a serious diagnosis. Some of them fight back, some go into denial, some go on living the best life they can have, knowing fair well their days are counted. The difference is the quality of life these individuals are choosing. For some fighting their illness gives them a chance of having quality of life later on. Others who choose denial, are giving themselves the space of no-one talking about the end with them, living their life as if nothing serious is happening until they can’t hide it any longer and the people around them have little time to adjust to the new reality.
I love and respect that 90 year old woman, Norma, who goes on an adventure. I love and respect my friend who lets me know her life will be ending for her soon, and she is going to live it day by day. Norma lets me visualize my ending days as an adventure, as transformational living into the great transition. If I’m lucky my son will be old enough to think about being free of responsibility and able to travel, well off enough to have a motorhome to drive me around in.
We don’t have a script for being around people toward the end of their life.
By telling me about the seriousness of her illness, my friend lets me practice being OK with loss of life, the great transition. I can now figure out how to be with her, how much to be with her, how much to leave her alone. I can cry and laugh at the same time, touching the paradox of life.
History tells me that the plains Indians told their old, sick folks in no uncertain terms to end their life, by giving them a small piece of meat and leaving them behind as they roamed to new hunting grounds. History tells me that coastal tribes sent their dead people off down river in a canoe with some of their belongings and a cover tied down over the canoe in the belief that this life was just a journey to the next. Not much support, not much sharing at the end of the journey on this planet.
In current Western society we have choices in how we care for our departing friends and family. We have the means to put them in homes where they get around the clock care, where their bodies are kept going with monitors, food, and fluids. Life in such homes sucks. Why don’t we give our friends, our family quality of life instead of quality of care toward the end of life? What does it mean to you, to me to have quality of life when we know that our days are numbered? I choose to live as I do now, I want to see the extraordinary in the world around me. Sometimes I will want to have the company of those I love, other times the company of myself. I want to experience nature, in its bloom and in its decay.
I would rather die being left behind on the grassy plains, then in a sterile hospital room. I would rather float downriver in a canoe, living the adventure, painful as it may be, of the transition in nature, than living out my days in a sterile assisted living place that serves me mashed up, tasteless meals. I trust that Nature will be kind and end my suffering without too much fuss.
It’s spring, the joy of life is bursting into blossom. A dying friend or family member deserves to be part of that life force. Celebrate life with them, let them know they are loved. It’s a good script for living and for dying.