mawhera te awa, today I am sharing it with her
Every Monday just before 11am, she arrived at our office to do her two hour stint on the reception desk. She and her walking frame shuffled slowly up the ramp, her husband walking close behind to catch her if she stumbled. Then she'd wait, slightly impatiently, while he picked up the doormat, because she was unable to step onto it, and hold the door open for her. She always came in the door with a cheerful smile, "hi Iri, how are you, have we been busy today?" She settled down behind the desk, her husband bringing her a glass of water, "I'm alright now, you can go", she'd say to him. sometimes giving instructions about jobs she wanted him to do. Then he would go and sometimes I would be in a hurry with things I wanted to do so I would just leave. Other times I might hang about a bit and we'd chat.
She told me the story of her awesomely brave daughter who brought joy to people around her, yet had the bad luck to be stuck with a mental illness which made her own life a struggle and an endurance. This very grown-up, adult woman decided her quality of life was so badly stunted by the unasked-for illness that she wanted to leave. And, of course, our laws don't allow for us to receive assistance to complete our lives by our own decision. Even if we have a terminal illness we are expected to suffer every painful ragged raspy breath until our bodies finally give it up. If we have a non-terminal illness then our only respite might be when we can close our eyes and sleep. And wake up the next morning to continue life in a body that cannot respond to the commands our brain wants to give. Like get up, brush your teeth perhaps. Or a brain that doesn't work properly and spirals us down into the depths of despair, or up into irresponsible highs, or maybe we are tortured by mad, bad voices.
All this is apparently supposed to be character-building. Morality even. To what end, I ask? To be inspirational for some other healthy sod reading ridiculous inspirational emails or blogs, then going forth into our days to smell the roses? Really? Or to inspire some other struggling soul into carrying on her/his uphill struggle? I'm dammed if I can work it out.
Yes, I know there are people who, given a choice are happy to continue with life, no matter what brickbats are thrown at them. I applaud them, I really do. But it is about choice. It all hangs on that. It is about us all being considered as adults, able to make decisions about our own bodies, our own lives.
So, one day when in her twenties, and after a lot of very considered thought (and I think there had been at least a couple of previous attempts), the awesomely brave daughter wrote a long and beautiful letter to her family outlining what she was doing and why, "don't grieve for me" and walked out, into the Pacific Ocean.
I think this daughter must have been very like her mother. Pragmatic, down to earth and so very, very brave. Of course the mother grieved for the daughter, but she understood the decision. And respected it. This mother, this strong woman who relieves me in the office every Monday, has Multiple Sclerosis. Her father also had Multiple Sclerosis so she watched him die, watched him choke on his food, watched him struggle to breathe, watched him die in pain. And she made her decision. That when life became too onerous, too futile, when nothing would help anymore, then she would refuse further intervention. Right now, today, as I type, this is what she is doing.
She has refused any medication, she has refused a further surgery. She just wants to come back here, to the wee geriatric hospital in our town, to die. They are trying to do that for her, this morning. I am hoping she is on her way up here now.
It should be easier for her. At the moment of her choosing she ought to be able to finish it. Right then.
We don't get to choose to be born into this life. I think the least we can have is the choice to leave it, with dignity, if we want to. We do this for our pets. Why not people? If we have made a considered decision it should be respected.