It is eight years ago today Dad died. He fell and died later of a brain bleed. The doctor offered to fly him to Billings for more extensive medical care, but I said if he can't be the way he was yesterday, which was laughing and visiting and as healthy as he could be for 89, then I know he doesn't want to be here. He and Mom gave my brother and me such a gift. They let us know what they wanted so there were no decisions concerning heroic measures. When the time came, whatever it was, Mom dying of leukemia after 15 years, and Dad dying suddenly, they were ready and consequently, so were we. Death came as part of the natural order of life. Alive, alert, interested to the end. My mother made this statement near the end of her life, "God is in charge and with God in charge, nothing will be bad."
Recently I read a book titled Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, a surgeon on the East Coast. It came to me in a roundabout way. My cousin, who lives in Chicago, had the book recommended to her by her pastor. When I heard about it I asked my brother, who reads constantly, if he knew it and he did. He gave it a high recommendation so that was enough for me. And now I, in turn, will recommend it to you.
Atul's book was a #1 New York Times bestseller. Because his parents, as well as himself, have been successful surgeons, he is deeply immersed in the practice of medicine. But rather than dealing just with facts about a patient, he wanted to know about that person and what their needs were as they were aging and ill or just ill. He learned, through hospice workers and on site visits and talking with people about the far more important question than just 'how long do you want to live'. The better question was phrased 'how do you want to live the last days of your life? What do you want to be able to do?’ Into the former question was all the medical procedures that can keep our heart beating, but provide no quality of life. The rephrased question was about living.
I was intrigued by the many men and women the author visited with in learning about practicing medicine in a more humane way. Running through the book was the diagnosis of the author's father with inoperable cancer and how the family wrestled with the disease to give him the best life he could have up to the last.
Depending on where you are in your life, the recital was deeply moving, thought-provoking and really a book about loving life right until the time we say, "Good-bye." It provides a view of death that is peaceful and a loving look at what it means to be mortal.