Stacey Tinianov is a caffeine-powered working mama and shiny object follower, runner, suburban environmentalist, cyclist, breast cancer ass-kicker, and empowered patient advocate. Follow her on Twitter, @CoffeeMommy.
Three years ago, the idea of choosing death over life was a completely foreign concept to me. And then my 85-year old grandmother had a massive stroke on the day of my son’s 9th birthday party.
Within 12 hours, I was on a plane to Texas and not long after I was in the ICU holding her hand. She was lucid but completely paralyzed on one side. She tried to talk but she was hard to understand. She was irritated to be stuck in a bed and didn’t seem to understand half her body wasn’t working. She would pump her leg and arm as if she were running to prove she did indeed have body control.
With the combination of her spunk, the support of her family gathered around her bedside and the excellent care she was receiving in the hospital, we all thought—assumed—she’d recover.
Then, she failed her swallow test. And we watched her lose her will to live.
Already I’d extended my trip an extra day but the morning of the 16th I explained to my grandmother, who was now non-responsive, I had to go. My son’s actual birthday was that day and I needed to be there for the celebration. Despite her lack of responsiveness, I know she heard me.
My grandmother died later that day. I held her hand as the machines showed her slow march and departure away from this world, boarded a plane home, and arrived in time for my son’s birthday dinner. Her death was a huge loss and felt extremely sudden yet I continue to feel that moment was a gift. I was able to hold her hand until the end and still make halfway across the country to celebrate life with my youngest child.
But explaining any goodness to my son was a different experience. At nine, he only understood death was loss. Honestly, just hours before, I was under the same impression.
As an adult, I can come to the conclusion dying at home or with as much control over the end as possible is a win, but how do we demystify death and help a child’s mind process the sometimes complicated combination of choice and loss?
This Thursday at 7:00pm EST, I’ll lead the #DWDchat discussion on Twitter to grapple with this challenging topic. Please join us to add your thoughts and observations.
View full post on Death with Dignity National Center
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