My mother spent her last year in a nursing home. I visited when I could. Crippled with arthritis, hard of hearing, mind moving in and out of dementia, one Sunday in a moment of sanity she blurted out, “I’m just no good to anyone anymore.”
On Tuesday the nursing home called. “Your mother aspirated on her food this morning. The doctor has placed an order in her file saying she is not to be given food or water by mouth.”
My mother had a living will. I was her medical representative. She had written me a letter years before saying she did not want artificial life support systems. All she wanted was good food and water and relief from pain.
The enormity of what was happening began sinking in. The doctor had imposed a death sentence on my mother. Euthanasia. As my mother’s personal representative, I had the power to countermand the doctor’s order and request a feeding tube.
My mother was 91. Her life had no quality. She knew it had no quality. Yet she had requested food and water.
The doctor was too busy to speak with me. The compassionate nurse practitioner spoke with me at length.
My nephew’s wife was a nurse. My sister-in-law had worked in hospitals for years. Both had witnessed patients whose families tried to keep them alive, only to have them die excruciating deaths by pneumonia. Both said the same thing. “Let it be.”
I sat by my mother’s bedside and held her hand. She squeezed mine. The following Sunday, she gasped her last breath.
Her body was in my hands. Her soul was in God’s.
© 2009 Janet Smith Warfield All rights reserved