Getting Near To The End
I have written about my Aunt Frieda before, but as I get closer to get to the end of life, the lessons that I learned from her are becoming more relevant and important to me.
Frieda was born and raised in Magdeburg, Germany. It is about 1-1/2 hours West of Berlin (150 km, 93 miles). Even today it is a delightful, beautiful middle aged town. She went to medical school, but had not quite finished when WWII came along and abruptly ended that dream permanently.
My Father's older brother served in the Army during WWII, and apparently was one of the allied soldiers who liberated Magdeburg. I don't know the details of how it came about, but he and Frieda met and they eventually ended up getting married. She loved Joe dearly. They had a wonderful, long marriage, and she was loyal and devoted to him even after his death from cancer many years later.
Frieda always had a lot of friends. People just naturally liked her, and she had a tremendous amount of energy. She had a dachshund that she loved dearly. All of her life she was active physically, up until the final year or 18 months at the end.
When her legs gave out on her she was devastated. It just totally destroyed her quality of life, which of course had a very negative effect on her outlook and attitude. I learned about Do Not Resuscitate from her. Once she could no longer get around her attitude towards life completely turned around. Each time I would call her, she went on and on about how much she hated her life now, and how much she wished that her life would go ahead and end. She was very ready to go, and was not at all happy about having to keep living out such a terrible end story.
I tried to be sympathetic, but I couldn't really. I guess that I had mixed feelings and felt that somehow she was being negative, weak and just wanted to give up. It seemed like a cop out.
Now I find myself in almost her exact same situation. I have always been active; one of those people who is constantly on the go. My legs have been one of my best assets. Hiking, racing bicycles, backpacking, snow skiing, mountain climbing, and scuba diving.
It just seems like my legs have let me down. Disloyal somehow.
I am typing this on the computer that I keep on the dining room table. After having peeled a Clementine orange and eaten it, I needed to go wash my hands. The kitchen sink is about 15 feet (4-1/2 meters) away. With the help of my cane I made the major journey over there. A pretty big deal, quite painful and a really major exercise.
I have been battling leukemia for almost ten years now. I am now in Stage 4 (there is no Stage 5). I think I have been strong and uncomplaining during this battle. I am not sure, but I think that I may now be in the process of kidney failure too. My legs have almost totally given out on me. I am in constant pain, and I cannot remember the last time that I had a good night's sleep.
It is considered rude or maybe not politically correct, but I have come to the conclusion I have every right to complain. I don't see how my quality of life could get much worse. This is not a temporary illness, from which I will recover. This is an inexorable decline. I own a high powered hand gun, so I have the means at my disposal to easily put myself out of my misery. I can now see that it is time to write at the end of the book: The End.
I now realize that it is totally insensitive and uncaring for people to be subtly putting pressure on me to continue with this pain and suffering, no matter how bad it gets. People who truly care about me should be listening with sympathy and compassion. They should be checking on me regularly by phone, and they should be trying to do whatever they can to make the remaining interval of my life as happy and painless as possible.
OBITUARY: On December 20, 2010 Paul Garland passed away peacefully in his home in El Paso, Texas.