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This work has reached the exceptional level
One Death at a Time
 Category:  General Fiction
  Posted: October 1, 2013      Views: 238
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I am currently editing my first book. It is a memoir. I would like to find an agent. I have sent query. I am exploring self-publishing too. Any ideas? I've had some articles published in local mags, but my writer's wish is to become a better - more...

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Carl has cancer and is much pain. He and his wife Colleen find an euthanasia home. They must stay for two weeks. It is run by MOM the caretaker of the home and groups are held. This will not be what t

Mom started off as usual, with us going around the table and introducing ourselves. It was my turn to go. I held tight to my chair, feeling like I was smack in the middle of a war.  Here I sat between Fred and Grandmamma. 

Greta’s sister attended too.

Fred folded his arms over his chest and immediately announced, “I think Grandmamma has made a mistake. Her granddaughter is supposed to be in this room, not her.”

“Thank you for being observant, but she is in the right room.”

“Bbb...but that means that her granddaughter is the one dying.”

“Yes, that would be right, Fred. Colleen would you care to begin?”

Fred's mouth could have been awarded the fly catcher of the year, since it hung open so wide. His eyes bulged like he had a thyroid condition. I wished Wilma was here to see his face.

“Hi, my name is Colleen. My husband Carl has bone cancer and he is in lots of pain. That’s why we came here.”

“My name is Fred. My wife Wilma has bad heart failure and breathing problems. She doesn’t want to die in front of the children or grandchildren.”

“Hi. I am Greta’s sister. Poor Greta has had Alzheimer’s for over five years. She can’t dress or feed herself anymore and only remembers me sometimes. I just know she wouldn’t want to continue like this.”

Then it was Grandmamma’s turn. Grandmamma held her head down and was silent.

Mom said, “No one here knows you, would you like to share something with us?”

“Latar please, no now.”

I wonder if she was uncomfortable about Fred or was she just too weepy to continue. Mom passed her and began to ask us questions.

“Tell us what it was like for you before you came here, Colleen?”
“Carl was in lots of pain. Most of the time he spent in bed moaning. The doctors had given him as much radiation and chemo as his body could tolerate. Sometimes, when a visitor showed up or he got a phone call, he could fake wellness for a few minutes. Then he would excuse himself to go to the bathroom. That was my cue. I would take the phone or tell the visitor that Carl had been out of sorts for the past few hours and he would need to take a nap soon. They usually took the hint to leave or hang up.

“Colleen, that’s interesting that when I asked how you dealt with things before this, you talked about how Carl did. This is very typical of a caregiver. They put their own needs and preferences on hold as you have. But it is important to recognize how this has affected you. Can you tell us how you were before you came here?”

“Truthfully, as you said, there was no time for myself. While Carl slept, I made out grocery lists and asked my neighbor to go get them. I was so afraid to leave him alone. During his naps, I would do all the housework, except vacuuming, because I didn’t want it o wake him up. I would eat my meals in the bathroom when the smell and sight of food would make him sick. I was constantly taking him to doctors or getting prescriptions. I would have to keep track of his medications. He worried me because he would look at the bottle and say that he should just take them all.“

“Did you talk with friends or relatives for support?”

“Carl didn’t want me to talk about his condition with anyone. He wanted to protect them from worrying. Of course, I knew how badly his condition had deteriorated, so I had to let the family know. Sometimes, I would call my daughter at work and ask her to tell the rest of the family because I couldn’t talk very long. I asked her to tell them not to call or visit because he would know that I talked with them. But I thought it would be unfair to not let them know and then be surprised when he died.”

“It sounds like you had very little support for yourself. How about when you get home? Will you have support then?”

“I think my daughter and best friend will be helpful to me.”
“Do they know you are here?”

“Oh, no, I couldn’t tell them that. They may think that I had a hand in having Carl die too soon.”

“Who else here in this room has not told anyone about where they are?”

Greta’s sister and Fred did not raise their hands. Evidently, they had already confided in someone. Mom rephrased the question for Grandmamma.

“Grandmamma, does anyone else know you are here?”
Grandmamma makes the sign of the cross and bows her head. Then says, “I ask God to forgive me evryday fur cummun here.  God will take her sweet soul when he wants har to die. It should no be up to aneeone else.”

“Does this mean you have kept your whole journey to this place a secret from everyone?”

“I tell evryone we go on vacation so Lydia to feel betta. I tell dem I have much money to do dis.”
 I ask , “Has Lydia told anyone?”

“Shhhh.  Lydia only tells me. Her mama, she can't. Her mama keeps praying for har to be betta. She has candles and rosaries all de time. How can we tell her of such a ding like dis?”

“If you have such a strong belief in God being the one to take her, why did you come here with her?,” Mom asks.

Now Grandmamma starts to weep and tremble. “I love Lydia, I come to see har from Puerto Rico to see for myself.  My poor Lydia cannot eat.  She cry herself to sleep evree night. All day, her Mama give her pills and hook up Lydia to machines to make her blood clean. God do not use machines. Dis is from man.”
“I tink God wans my Lydia, now.”

“It sounds like your family would be upset if they knew she was here?”

“Oh yes, espesally her Mama. She would tink God not take har to heaven. But I know He will. So I keep my lips like dis.” With that Grandmamma makes a zipper noise and moves her hands across her mouth.

Now she lowers her voice with even more sadness. “I seventy-eight years old.  For me, I have hard time walking, it is okay. Not for Lydia. She is just a baby. She ony be 23 tomorrow.  Now she wear a scarf on head cause hair falls out. Her eyes are the eyes of death. She should be out finding husband, not dying here.”

I look over at Fred, who has been silent. He is no longer tapping his fingers, but wiping his eye.  I reach for the tissues and give one to Mom and Grandmamma.

“Colleen, I would like you to make a list of all your possible supports when you get home and a goal to at least tell one of those people what you have been through here.”

Fred speaks, “But isn’t this place illegal? Aren’t you afraid, you'll get arrested?”

Mom responds, “Fred we have been dodging the law for many years. We’ll continue to do this as long as people need our services. You don’t have to broadcast exactly where you were, but what is more important is that you get support for what you have been though and will go through. All of you here are going through a grief process and will continue this for quite some time. It is no good to isolate yourself with secrets from everyone.

Greta’s sister asks, “Do you know how long we will be in grief?  What is the average?  I read about going through fear and anger and I have not felt that.”

“I wish I had that magic answer, but how long differs from each person, it depends how they handle their grief and how close they were to their loved one. There are five stages but they are not in any order and while most people go through all five, some don’t or they may pass through them so quickly they are hardly noticeable.
The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Fear is included in some theories. The most important thing to remember is that you should allow yourself to feel these emotions. Don’t be surprised if you feel angry one day and you hate the deceased for putting you though this. Just accept the feeling and move on. It is all part of grief.

Another important aspect to beware of is if you feel like you are stuck in one phase, let’s say denial. Please get some help from a counselor or a confidante. Maybe we know someone whose loved one has died and they have made their room a shrine, never touching a thing in their rooms for years and years?"

Fred, spoke up. “I have, my sister lost her daughter when she was only 19, in a car accident. That was six years ago. She keeps her room locked. My sister is so depressed, she still has not gotten back to work.”

“That is an excellent example, Fred. That is what happens when a person gets stuck in the grief cycle. When Grandmamma was talking about Lydia were you thinking about your niece and sister?”

“Yeah, I was. And about how bad it must be for Lydia and Grandmamma.”

“That’s good Fred, that you can feel someone’s pain and relate to Grandmamma. Just talking to one another about things is good. It would be good to share phone numbers in this group.  We have survivors who come to see us every Sunday of the month. It is good to see them and how they have gotten on with their life.”

“Sometimes, I feel guilty about bringing Carl, here, I said.

“I am glad you brought that up, Colleen. Guilt is so natural but can become overwhelming if we let it. Please remember, though, that this was their decision and the only thing you are guilty of is unconditional love. I admire all of you and your courage. Do not hesitate to just call me to just talk or get referrals for help. Remember, Mom will be here to help.”

I couldn’t help feeling so sad about Lydia. I still had not met her. Perhaps  tomorrow.

It is so unfair at such a young age. Carl had the chance to marry, have a career and raise two beautiful children. Lydia will never do those things.


Author Notes
Thank you trishgoody for fine pic
Mom-The proprietor and caretaker of this euthanasia house
Carl (now Roger)-Bone cancer patient looking for relief
Colleen (now Cindy)- Carl's wife
Fred-Talkative husband who has a wife that is dying here
Wilma-Has 40% of heart working and lung problems. She worked at hospice and is resolved to did here.
Smiley-Young 32 yr old with pancreatic cancer who has been told he would have 3 months to live. Wishes to cheer up others.
Hazel-A volunteer who comes in to clean and cook. Her husband died here and she has been volunteering since.
Greta person with severe dementia, her sister visits her
Grandmamma-Grandmother from Puerto Rico came over to US to see Lydia. Lydia begs Gram to bring her here.
Lydia-23 year old sick all her life with Lupus. Now her kidneys and liver has failed. She does not have long to go.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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