Friday, March 02, 2012

sometimes death is okay

I've had a couple of weeks to think about my grandma dying and I've had to tell a lot of people.  And I've found that their sympathy is almost unwanted because the more I think about it, the more it's okay that she died.  It's not that I don't miss her--for instance, today I saw a friend of mine; he's an artist who is helping me with my next book.  His boyfriend is some kind of cousin of mine. I was going to ask some questions about my "cousin's" family to figure out the exact connection and then I realized that it was useless as my grandma was the one who would have known how to figure it out.
It's weird to visit my mom and her house is empty and quiet, no loud TV, no running water and flushing toilet.  It's even weirder for my mom, who never lived alone before.  We went through Grandma's things and I felt like a ghoul every time I wanted something. I took a doily she made, some plastic storage containers, and a potted cactus plant that belonged to my grandpa.  I'm selling her furniture on Craigslist.  My mom gave away all the extra afghans my grandma had made to a nursing home, and also gave them her collection of canes.  Her decent clothing went to a local place that helps homeless people.
And it's all good. I don't understand hoarders, who when someone dies clutches all their things tightly.  My grandma loved to give away her afghans.  To keep them (and not use them) would be disrespectful.  To know that someone is warm because she is wearing my grandma's jacket or sweater makes me feel good. My dad's clothes went to charity too.  I kept one shirt, a green one he really liked.  I don't need 12 garbage bags of clothes and stuff to remember my grandma and dad, and having those 12 bags wouldn't make the memories I have any better.  This blog is a much better resource and it only takes up cyberspace, not closet space. 
It is okay that my grandma died, for a few reasons.  She was, basically, 94.  She was fairly healthy and dementia free.  And she chose the method of her death by not taking her medicine.  Only the very last day, maybe not even 24 hours, were "bad" in the sense that she'd had the massive stroke and yet not died yet, but since she was gone (brain dead) that barely even counts.  When I tell people that, they are okay with it too.
And then I think of my dad.  It was beyond okay when he died, it was good, it was a blessing, but it was still wrong He was only 67.  He never enjoyed his retirement.  His last 6 weeks he was in agony, just far enough from being a vegetable to be in pain.  His death was a relief, a release, for all of us, and in that way it was also okay.  But in the bigger scheme of things, a man barely in his 60's should not have dementia, he shouldn't go from diagnosis to death in barely 4 years, he shouldn't brutalize his wife and forget his daughter and forget how to talk and how to read.  There is nothing that is okay about early onset Alzheimer's (or any kind of dementia).
People who don't have a loved one with dementia cannot understand how the families of patients, toward the end, pray for death.  They think they would never ever wish for someone they loved to die. (They probably haven't seen end-stage cancer either, in that case.)  People who have been there, done that, we all just nod and say, "it's okay to feel relieved.  I get it."
The day my grandma had her final stroke, news came out about a cancer drug that reverses Alzheimer's like symptoms in mice.  I try to remain hopeful, because someday I might need that drug.  I don't want the final entry in this blog to be about how it was okay for ME to die.  But perhaps someday that will be the case.


Treatment For Mental Illness said...

Few days ago, my maternal uncle died as he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease for the past 4 years.Last few months of his life was just pathetic,as sometimes he even failed to recognize himself. I think death has given him the relief from such a miserable condition.May his soul rest in peace.

long term care quotes said...

I think for some people, it would be easier and lighter for them to see their loved ones rest in peace rather than seeing them alive but living in pain and misery.

Chris said...

My mother passed away early this morning after a ten-year struggle with the cruel, soul-robbing monster known as Alzheimer's. Her last months, spent in a care center, saw her a shell of a human, unable to speak, barely able to move, and apparently hardly able to comprehend anything around her. It's no way to live. Her brain finally... mercifully... decided it was time to call it quits. She died peacefully in the night. And this is a good thing. The bad thing is that Alzheimer's struck in the first place. It should not have.