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Future imperfect, past perfected December 30, 2012

Posted by marthasway in Musings.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

As this year filled with many losses ends, I have been pondering end of life issues. I have a discussed some options regarding ending my life peacefully should Parkinson’s rob me of many of the qualities I hold dear.  I hope that I will have the discernment and courage to know when to die.  I have no fear of death; I faced that when I was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2007.  Out of that experience came deep acceptance, recovery, and reconciliation, but nothing could prepare me for Parkinson’s Disease.

My father died quietly in hospice care, with my mother holding his hand, with my sister and her husband next to her and their Episcopal priest at her other shoulder, all surrounded by the light of love and peace. His was a good death.

His own mother, on the other hand, had not been allowed to die naturally, because her handwritten final wishes had not been properly notarized. Despite many best efforts, she languished in a nursing home for a year after a massive stroke, her body deteriorating and subject to indignities to which she would not have submitted herself. Her death was a protracted misery for those of us who loved her and stood powerless against the indifference of managed care.

Ideally, I would choose the soundtrack of my dying, the menu, the venue, all the trappings that I try to control in life, but I know that my plans are beyond my control.

When my son was born, I had an elaborate written birth plan.  I was in excellent physical shape, had read more than enough to prepare for the birth (“Where do you get this stuff?”, my bewildered and bemused OB/GYN kept saying), asked for the use of the one birthing suite in the downtown teaching hospital, and had gone through two different childbirth preparation programs.  I had all my ducks in a row, ready for

  • Ralph Vaughan-Williams or The Brandenburg Concertos playing softly
  • No drugs
  • Upright posture–no stirrups for me!
  • The lovely birthing suite, with the lights low
  • No cutting

In the fullness of time, there was no room at the Birthing Suite Inn; a woman 28 weeks in with triplets was there instead.  My ideal labor room became an overly bright operating room, where I  had to use stirrups to make for an easier catch for the doctor.  A precipitous labor brought a crowd of interns in their short white coats, summoned by the resident, who had never witnessed natural childbirth.

So, surrounded by strangers, in a strange room without a bed, my babe was born at 5:15 on a cold February morning.  When we met face to face, all my disappointed plans went out of my mind, and I was caught up in everlasting love.



1. Ben Alford - December 30, 2012

thanks Martha. beautiful. and I remember coming to your home a day or two later on Ash Wed. and putting ashes on the three of you and Telling that 2 day old babe that he was dust and to dust he shall return. It was truly one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life, and ties right in to the theme of this post.

2. mauriceabarry - December 30, 2012

Perseverence. Some times it’s all we have.
…and now it starts! My oldest is now almost 22 and the magic is still there :>)

Martha Steward (@stewardmartha60) - December 30, 2012

Thank you, Maurice! My son is almost 17, and we spent the holidays sharing a bad cold. We lived apart for several years, and my greatest gift this Christmas was a treatment note shared by his psychologist: “The parent/child relationship is resolved.”.

The magic is indeed alive!

3. Sally Grier - January 1, 2013

You’re a great inspiration to people with dibiltating illnesses. My wish for you is that at the end of your life, God will be merciful and you can have the quiet peaceful death you so deserve. God Bless you.

marthasway - January 1, 2013

Many thanks, Sally. God is good, and it is a blessing to share hopes and dreams. As a dear friend who died suddenly of a heart attack this summer after successful treatment for cancer had related to a mutual friend, “If I live, I live in Christ; if I die, I die in Christ.” From this, I take care to rejoice in each day. Thank you for sharing this New Year’s greeting.

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