Transition, Passing Away

Today my cousin Carmen died. She had been quite ill now for two years, in and out of hospice often. In her 70s, I don’t really consider her to be old. Dad is 90. Now THAT is old. We all knew her passing was  eminent, yet when it actually happens, life feels different. A veil of sorrow descended on me. Another gracious and glamorous woman in my life has gone away. There have been so few that I admired like Carmen.

When I was a child I used to play with her daughter, Ettienne. We were both very bossy and strong willed. Sometimes we hit an impasse as to who was in charge of our playing, who was determining what we were going to play and how. We both had strict ideas of how we thought things should go as we played. I remember the friction was only occasionally, and I was aware that I didn’t want to fight with her. 

Carmen was glamourous. Tan and shapely  with streaked blond hair and very sparkly eyes, she was a knock out. I idolized her looks. She also had that heavy , low Southern drawl that we all took for granted. She was eloquent, well read and the empress of her home. She had a command of English that bespoke good breeding and education. Yet, Carmen was down to earth, too. She taught an African American kid reading after school at her house, she took in ailing animals, especially cats. She took risks. She did what she thought was right whether it was “proper” or not. 

Now that she is gone, I treasure my memories of her. She wrote me a letter about two years ago when I was having an awful time. I had closed my business, lost my home and was about to move back to my childhood home. She wrote about how Etteinne and I had washed our doll’s clothes and hung them out on the bushes to dry. This upset Etteinne’s Grandmother with the impropriety of it all. 

I tried once calling her when I moved back home, and Charles answered the phone, saying she wasn’t there. Then he hung up on me. I was really startled. Then I heard that Charles had dementia. How sad now. Who will take care of Charles? I imagine he is crushed. It is a sad time for our family, yet one that is unavoidable. 

We will all meet at the church and the graveside. We will say our goodbyes and shed our tears. Does she know how much she will be missed? I don’t know.

 

Tales from the Crypt

As a child, I was enamored with the the writings of both Dickens and Poe. Both wrote of the plights of orphans, hardships and bizarre circumstances that I could relate to. Little did I know that my life would play out a strange tale in itself. It all depends upon one’s perspective, doesn’t it?

For instance, in the Poe story, The Fall of the House of Usher, the hero has a strange affliction of deterioration and spent nerves that described perfectly the Epstein-Barr syndrome I had for a few years. This disease that attacked me came from nowhere and left me weak for months. Even though the current opinion of doctors was that no one could get Mononucleosis twice, I believe in fact that I had long sessions of it 3 or 4 times. Severely ill and weak for months impacted my life greatly. My doctor was currently on the famous CDC staff in Atlanta. The CDC was the authority on germs, illness and physical diseases. But what I had, they didn’t, know. Dr. Carlos said that he was unsure of what sort of virus I had. It mimicked Epstein-Barr, but he was not 100 % certain. He said that the reason he was unsure was due to the fact that viruses mutated so rapidly that it was hard to determine what it was.

“Huh?” I thought, “He is the authority?”

It really didn’t matter too much since there was no “cure.” I had to out live it.

Life was miserable for many months. Every little sound grated on my nerves. I was weak and had no energy. There was no strength to do the most simple tasks, much less take ballet class. Physically weak, I somehow continued to teach ballet and struggle through. In the end, I outlived it.

Time to Go

The waves bashed against the large granite rocks in front of the three story house. Dad was happily wrapped in a blanket, and gently rocks in his chair, watching the ocean with glee. Sitting beside him, I wonder when the end will come.  When will she go? When will she finally die? As the tide comes in, it must go out. When will his wife of  six decades die?

As macabre as it may seem, sometimes life continues when the quality of a person’s existence is to the point of where I believe we ought to euthanize them. We do this for animals, don’t we? Well, I believe it is time to bring up the taboo subject of death, and especially the subject of helping ease someone on out. 

In my opinion, it is time for her to go. At 84 years old, she can’t walk, make complete sentences or go to the bathroom on her own. Her mind is mostly gone. She has severe dementia. Is she enjoying her life? No, but then she only got this bad recently. And it is doubtful that she will recover any of her abilities.

Why fight it? Why not just ease her on out? A quick hypodermic like I had to give my beloved cat.  He had a good death. He died with dignity. He could no longer nourish his body, it was a matter of time. As much as it hurt me, I had to be responsible. I refused to allow him to suffer more.

Well, mother can’t nourish her body either. She hasn’t eaten enough on her own for months to maintain herself. We are doing her an injustice by the tube feeding, I think. Why prolong her life? I believe prolonging her life is cruel, and there is an ulterior motive of the health profession to keep her going at all costs.