Once upon a time there was a man who lived with his two daughters in a lonely clearing in the woods. They had moved in and cared for many of the things that their mother had always done, after she died and left their father alone to cope with his disease. He tended to his strawberries, chased away the deer, and grew rows and rows of vegetables…until one day when he wasn’t able to get around in his garden anymore. He told his daughters that he wanted to take the pills to be done with his life and they argued there was so much to live for, still.
On the other side of the mountain along the lazy river lived an old widowed woman with her two sons. Her greatest desire had been achieved: to watch them grow into men that she admired. She rested in her favorite chair and watched the river flow by her picture windows…and was keenly aware that she was dying of the insidious cancer that was stealing her bones. She desperately sought to avoid becoming a burden to her sons. When she asked for the pills that would end her life, they erected many obstacles to avoid having the doctors actually prescribe the medicine. They were certain she only wanted to feel as though she had a choice, and some control, and would never use the pills anyway.
Time went by. The father chose his favorite foods for his “last supper” as he affectionately joked with his daughters, saying they were excellent cooks. Those two daughters had talked long and hard about not wanting him to end his life so soon, but he remained determined and they supported him however they could. While he sat reclined in his chair, his body wasting from the progression of his illness, he took his medicine and lovingly told them good bye. They cried. And they knew he had chosen his own way, while they watched the color fade from his face as the 20 minutes passed and then his breathing stopped.
The river quietly bubbled outside her window. The mother asked many times in the last three weeks of her life, “What should I do?”, as she was less able to think straight and her tired body could no longer respond to her requests. Her sons cared for her when she could not get out of bed. They turned her and changed her, and fed her small bites until she could not open her mouth any longer or swallow. She lay inert in her bed, and they clucked about her, so careful to do everything right. When she breathed her last, they sat for a very long time at her bedside. Uncertain what would be next, And they wondered aloud, “What will we do now, with this hole in every day, without our beautiful mother to be a part of our life?”
Death is not a fairy tale.
There are no easy ways to approach it and life is quiet simply…complicated. Whether we hasten the moment or prolong the day, it will come as it always has- for everyone.
The father had a slight smile on his face. The mother had a sweet look of peace on hers. They would be forever remembered, and the choices that made their passing uniquely theirs would remain memories and questions for their children for the remainder of their own lives…forever after.