April 20, 2021

My mind has been stuck on dying lately, so I wasn’t quite prepared to see and hear my heart today during  an echo cardiogram.

Upon seeing my heart  beating away, my first response was  that there it was, the thing that is keeping me alive when the rest of me is preparing to die.   And, while I was  prepared to be rather angry with it, I became caught up in the steady rhythm of the beat, beat, beat, and the  changing pictures of it on the screen of the machine in front of me.

It was brown that changed to black and back to brown.  A streak of blue and red showed up from nowhere, disappeared, and re-appeared.  And a push of a button immediately livened it into a thump-thump sound.  It was communicating (of course mainly to the technician who understood its language, but I was hearing it clearly) and it was very alive.   I felt more curious than angry that it was the reason I was still alive.

Although I had had an electrocardiogram after my heart attack in 2016, I had no memory of actually watching it on the screen as it “talked” to anyone who could understand it.

I became more curious with what it was “saying,” but I knew I’d have to wait for my doctor’s translation.  So, for now, I just did my best to connect to this usually hidden part of my body that had been with me since I was born now coming up on 78 years ago.

Did I want it to be saying that it was doing well and would keep ticking on?  Or did I want it to be saying that it was getting as tired as I was and was getting ready to stop for good?

I asked the technician why she had chosen this type of job.  She said she was one of 10 children who had all chosen professions in the health field.  But she hadn’t wanted to be a doctor.  Both of her parents had died young.  She spent her mornings listening to the hearts of grown-ups, and her afternoons listening to the hearts of babies.

She made me realize once again how much of the world I didn’t understand.  So, I don’t know yet what my heart said to her.   But I was grateful that she had understood the language of my heart.  I would have to wait longer to hear an English translation.

But, remaining the naturalist I had chosen to be long ago, I was glad my heart had survived so far on its own power.


April 16, 2021

Grandma, I know how much you suffered for years and years with your brain power disappearing.  You started out on the bottom floor, and year by year, as your brain deteriorated, you were moved up from floor to floor.

The last time I saw you, my cousin and I wheeled you up to the garden on the roof of the care home and you said one word, chrysanthemum – not an easy word to say.  And indeed, there was a pretty chrysanthemum there.

Your daughter, my dear aunt, eventually followed you into dark places with Alzheimer’s.  Several times, in a variety of  different  care facilities, I saw how you struggled to make sense of your new, cruel world.   You  hated what you could no longer understand as your once bright, sharp, artistic mind, fought back — and then faded.

My bright spot of a memory from that time was your pure enjoyment of eating an ice cream sandwich we bought at a local store when I took you out for a walk.    You still knew somewhere inside you who I was,  who you were, and that we were connected.

I can remember promising myself that I would fight hard and do anything to avoid the horror of what both of you had senselessly suffered.

Heredity is now tracking me.   I had a heart attack in 2016.   After watching a pattern in the retirement community where I live in which something goes wrong, the doctor fixes it, and later something else goes wrong, and through pills, operations, or whatever, that problem is fixed temporarily.

I basically don’t have a problem with dying.  Dying is human and every living person must die.  I have been a lucky person to have so many mostly healthy years behind me.   I am ready to let nature take its course instead of hanging on miserably with attempts to “fix” me for years.

But the reality is that I, like my grandmother, and my aunt, don’t have any more choice than they did.   Suicide is very difficult, and I know of suicides gone wrong in our retirement community that ended up unintentionally hurting others.

For a variety of reasons, society today doesn’t accept suicide as a  way out of an impossible situation.  There is the legal exception of allowing people to  ingest doctor-prescribed quick acting medicines if they are already deemed terminally ill with only months to live.   Another legal exception can be choosing not to eat or drink until one dehydrates over a few weeks.  BUT the person who refuses all food and drink MUST be considered mentally competent to make such a decision.  If not, they must endure the long, slow progression toward a “natural” death.

It has been more than 4 years since my heart attack.  My deterioration started slowly, and is now accelerating.  How many more years before my time begins as a lump on a bed?  And then, how many years must I endure being that lump on a bed?

As we keep people alive longer and longer,  how many more generations of my family will become long term or short term lumps on beds with withering minds?














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