The Right Way to Die

I just recently re-watched episode 7×17 of One Tree Hill. At the end, Nathan & Jamie arrange an early Christmas so that they can celebrate one last holiday with Haley’s dying mother.

These kinds of episodes always lead me to ask dozens of questions. Questions of myself and others.

I lost my own mother 10 years ago, very suddenly. My loss was not like that of Haley James Scott. There were no last Christmas thoughts. My loss was closer to that of Buffy Summers. There was no warning. No sickness. One day she was there. The next day, she was not.

I am often asked, “Would you have preferred a sickness so that you could say goodbye, rather than the sudden end?”

It feels like a game of “would you rather” and the options are having my right arm or right leg chopped off. Is there a right answer?

For me and Buffy and Dawson Leary there is the knowledge that our loved one didn’t suffer. They were there and then they were gone. We, of course suffer all of it. But for those that we loved, there is no pain, no second guessing, no, “what if”.

My Aunt lost her husband two years ago. And not in the most pleasant of ways. Am I glad she was able to say goodbye? Absolutely. But I would never wish the pain of watching a loved one suffer the way that he did on anyone. Ever.

Do I wish I had even 10 more minutes with my mother? To ask her all of the questions, to tell her how much she meant to me? To thank her for all of her sacrifice? To find out how she made her special soup? Of course I would want that. But never at the expense of her suffering.

I can imagine that there is a sense of closure people get when they know ahead of time that someone will die. Everyone wants the chance to say goodbye. But I can imagine that there is also the horror of watching someone you love melt into nothing right before your eyes.

The last image I have of my mother is her standing on our lawn, waving goodbye, yelling for us to be safe,  as we headed off for a camping trip.

There is no right way or good way or easy way to lose someone. All you can do is close your eyes, take a deep breath, and thank the world that you had them even for a minute. And then LIVE.

Ten years later, I still do it, every day.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The Right Way to Die

  1. Bonnie Rumsey

    Awesome Sweetheart. And yes, I did cry. But you hit the nail on the head. I was so thankful I got to take care of Gary and be able to share those last days. But when I go, sefishly, I want to go like your Mama–here this minute and gone the next. I love you bunches,

  2. I can relate/understand/sympathize. It’s hard for me to watch that storyline, although BJG, James, Jackson, Bess, Shantel, and Lindsey all did such great work with a hard topic.

    I lost my mom suddenly in 2001. I was about two months out of high school. She didn’t feel right and called an ambulance to take her to the hospital. She was diagnosed as a diabetic (which she’d apparently been for awhile), the pneumonia she had just brought it more to the surface. She was in the hospital for about a week while they got her pneumonia taken care of and taught her how to take care of herself as a diabetic (insulin, etc) then she came home. We had one week with her before she ended up back in the hospital, this time unconscious. We took her off life support a week later, she had minimal brain activity and was technically already gone. She wouldn’t have been herself, it wouldn’t have been a life for her or fair to her. It is hard every day. I miss her all the time. Do I wish I could have had more time with her/ to wrap my head around it all? Of course. My life changed that summer and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.

  3. Jessica

    All I can do is cry at this. I really can’t say much because my tears pretty much say it all. Almost twenty years later and my heart still feels empty.

  4. Tiffy

    This post made me cry. Its been 5 years since i lost my grandpa and even though he was sick and we knew he was going to go, it was still hard on all of us, its still hard on us, especially around thanksgiving because thats when we lost him in 2006. But i’m thankful for the time we got to spend with him while he was sick.

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