In 1970, I was visiting my father in the hospital, when he died from a 'lingering' throat cancer. He had no desire to be killed. In 1988 my mother was dying in the hospital from pneumonia: she 'lingered' for a week in pain: doctors would not give her the inhaled drug that helped her to breathe for fear of scarring her lungs??? Still, she had no desire to be killed. My two sisters interrupted their lives, and one was there all day, and one there all afternoon to wipe her brow or wet her lips. I was there during the night.
When she laboured with her breathing, I often contemplated taking one of her pillows and smothering her: I thought it would be an act of love. But her life long teachings kept me from doing it. One day, the entire family of children, their wives and husbands, the grandchildren, came to say goodbye to her: what an astonishing sight that was, as toddlers and old 'uns bid her farewell, with a smile on their faces and tears in their eyes. My very concious mother greeted them all with a smile and a loving word, as if they were giving her birthday greetings. That is my measure of dying with dignity.
Recently, my living at home father-in-law was near the end of his life. Both he and his wife had always wanted to die at home, and my mother-in-law had done so. He had taken a bad fall living alone. My wife and I sold our home and moved in with him for over two years. We watched him go from mobile to bed ridden, alert to stricken with alzeimers. He went from his large bed into a hospital bed while still living in his house: for over a year I had to clean him and diaper him. At the end, he too spent a week in the hospital: thanks be to God we have them. His other daughter was with him when he died, and we were there within fifteen minutes to pray over him... "now and at the hour of our death. Amen" This was yet another death with dignity.
When I am dying, and I am in pain, give me the necessary drugs to relieve me. Don't kill me though: I have still to reconcile with family and God; perhaps even myself.
Kevin McNiff, Guelph.Share