Compassion and Courage

Timing is everything! Just yesterday I spent the bulk of the day with my Aunt (my Mom’s sister), and she gave me her May 28, 2012 issue of New York magazine. The cover highlights Michael Wolff’s article, A Life Worth Ending, which prompted me to high tail it to New York magainze’s website and add a comment to the already 370+. You can follow the comment stream here, and I’ve posted my initial comment below.

Oh, and why is timing everything? My Mom’s 83rd birthday would have been this coming Friday, June 8. My comment is a timely tribute to her courage.


My 80 year old Aunt gave me her copy of the May 28 issue of New York magazine expressly so I would read this article. On the cover, my Aunt wrote “Don’t EVER let this happen to me“. She and my Mom have always held the philosophy that when your mind goes, you should go with it. They saw their own mother decline in a nursing home and vowed never, ever, would they follow that route.

My Aunt is still going strong, though not without bits and pieces of her body falling apart. My Mom died in October, 2010. And this is the part I hope readers of this article and these comments will take note of. Dying does not have to be an agonized, drawn out, horrific experience like the one that Van and her family is experiencing.

My Mom had a stroke in August, 2010, that left her paralyzed on her dominant right side. Unable to play her treasured piano (she had a masters in music composition), unable to use her valued computer to communicate with the world, and unable to care for herself with the basics of dressing and toileting, she invoked what she always said she would do if such a circumstance occurred. She contacted Compassion and Choices. Compassion and Choices is a phenomenal organization that exists to help people make quality of life decisions by offering them choices. My Mom opted for VSED, voluntarily stopping eating and drinking. She made this decision while perfectly competent, but even had she not been able to make this decision, it is one which she had shared with her family over and over for years, so we would have known what to do had she not been able to do it for herself.

VSED requires the participation of a doctor who will prescribe palliative care, which means medicine to alleviate pain and discomfort, and morphine towards the last day or two, and a round-the-clock aide to assist with diaper changing and other functions of care, but not of feeding, as no food or water are taken in during this time. It is a special person, indeed, who opts to provide aide care during this time – who can soothe and calm, clean and comfort. We had the benefit of such a person, thanks to a recommendation from our contact at Compassion and Choices.

My Mom had a soothing, almost spiritual final 11 days, filled with sunshine in her ground floor apartment, loving children around her and a compassionate aide to care for her. She died peacefully, on her own terms, in her own apartment, in her own way.

Laurie B.


One thought on “Compassion and Courage

  1. Pingback: Five Wishes (not what you might be expecting) « Neurons Firing

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