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Dr. Kevorkian’s death has certainly prompted the national conversation on our rights as we near the end of our lives. Death is a difficult subject and an excruciating dialogue for many of us and we all need as much guidance and assistance from wise people to navigate that road.  Unfortunately, the NY Times did not really help that dialogue this morning.

Comments had to be closed down for this NY Times op-ed contribution:  “Dr. Kevorkian’s Victims” by Ross Douthat.  Understandably so.  The title is inaccurate and designed to incite argument either by clever avoidance or simple ignorance.  Further down in the op-ed piece he writes around other facts about Dr. Kevorkian.

If you’re reading this blog post and would like factual information on Dr. Kevorkian’s practices – I refer you to the 2010 documentary  KEVORKIAN.  

Since the NY Times comments are closed, I share my comments on Mr. Douthat’s op-ed here:

(1) Dr. Kevorkian had no “victims”.  People came to him seeking his assistance.  In the documentary you can see actual footage of their requests.

(2) Dr. Kevorkian was not called Dr. Death because he assisted so many suffering people who were ready to end their lives — he was called Dr. Death because he was a military doctor who was highly skilled at observing the exact moment of death of soldiers on the battlefield.  He was responsible for “person to person” blood transfusions on the battlefield and saved the lives of hundreds of soldiers.

(3) US doctors and medical professionals assist their patients in easing and quickening death every day.   When doctors come to the family and say, “There is nothing more we can do,” they begin procedures to allow the patient to die, and sometimes depending on the family’s wishes, they speed and ease that process with drugs.  When the doctors tell you, “All we can do now is make him/her comfortable,”  this is their industry code for letting you know that they are administering pain relief medication and they will continue to increase the dosage to toxic levels until the person becomes unconsious and eventually passes away.    And sometimes US doctors hasten death by simple neglect when they prefer to stay home on a weekend and wait until Monday to see a patient of theirs who was admitted to the emergency room.

Douthat is either very naive of hospital procedures or a very skilled propagandist with an agenda for dramatic impact.   He writes  “We do not generally praise doctors who help dispatch their terminally ill patients, as Kevorkian repeatedly and unashamedly did. Even when death is inevitable and inevitably painful, it is not considered merciful to prescribe an overdose to a cancer victim against her will.”

We quietly praise doctors every day for easing transition to death.  It is one of the most difficult things they do.   Drugs are often used to ease a patient’s transition to death – and it is merciful –  but to insert the “against her will” at the end of  the 2nd sentence has the writer leading the reader to believe that Dr. Kevorkian’s patients were being eased into death against their will.  Video footage in the documentary will show you time and time again that this is not the case.   And to compare Dr. Kevorkian’s work to the act of  “gently smother a sleeping Alzheimer’s patient,” is just an invitation to take a ride on Douthat’s  dramatic opinions train rather than a sharing of helpful facts.  But maybe that’s what op-eds are for.

I wish I had known point #3 earlier. I am grateful to the people who taught me.  Knowing it now assists me in being informed and doing my best to be a presence of love and strength for friends and family in the midst of life’s most difficult transition.

Douthat’s opinion might be more valuable to us if he actually relayed any facts of his own experiences from his vigils with friends and family while they died.   Mr. Douthat can you tell us – What is the value of watching your loved ones suffer needlessly as they die?  What inspirations did they have as they suffered?  Was your life made better by watching them suffer?  Just wondering.

If you’re reading this blog post and would like factual information on Dr. Kevorkian’s practices – I refer you to the 2010 documentary  KEVORKIAN

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Can you complete this sentence? – Before I die I want to _________________.

Click photo to see more of the "Before I die... " exhibit.

 

Designer, Urban Planner and Artist Candy Chang has installed an interactive exhibit in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area. One wall in the gallery is now a giant chalkboard.  Visitors can finish this sentence.   It will be so beautiful when it’s done.

Limiting to just one comment is difficult for me, I have about 10,000 more things to do, but if I get only one entry then, my contribution is  “Before I die I want  to be sure I have helped others love and be loved”   I’ve been fortunate in love and I know everything good grows from the roots of love.

I’m wondering what your answers are – leave them in the comments section below – or make a trip to East/West Gallery in Dallas and write your contribution to the wall and post a photo of your contribution.

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At little moments I feel the truth of that statement.  When I was very young and people would die it seemed a mystery.  Then in early adulthood death seemed a tragedy.  And now in real adulthood it seems a mystery again.

From Robert Lanza, MD on the Huffington Post:  “Your consciousness will always be in the present — balanced between the infinite past and the indefinite future — moving intermittently between realities along the edge of time, having new adventures and meeting new (and rejoining old) friends.”

If you’d like to  read the entire article  – click here.


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Is there any subtle way to ask, “If you have a choice, where would you prefer to die?”  There might be, but I can’t figure it out, so I am asking in my rustic way, “Have you thought about where you want to die?”  Assuming you’re not in a tragic accident (God forbid) you will have a choice.

The reason I ask is, my father-in-law passed away earlier this month and his choice in his advanced directive was to “go home”.  Three of us (all grown-ups)  had to read it over several times before it was clear to us.    No where did he write “I want to die at home ” but all of the sentences in his advanced directive read  “If __blank__  is happening, my preference is to go home.”  And every response to every medical situation presented was “to go home.”  Finally we got it.  We should bring him home.

Both of my parents passed away in hospitals.  Advanced directives or even conversations about how to die weren’t very vogue at the time.  I’m pretty sure dying in the hospital was what my father wanted as about 1 week before he passed, he stood up and said, “I need to go back to the hospital.”  It was the day after Christmas.  We pulled the car into the snowy front yard, right up to the front door so he wouldn’t have to walk but a few steps, and in my heart, I knew that this was the beginning of the end.   We were all still pretty young,  in our teens and 20’s and I think it would have been too difficult for him to leave surrounded by us and the amazing life he had created for us.

For my mother though, I think she might have wanted to pass away at home.  The beautiful home she had created.  It was Easter, the garden was blooming, the house was clean and ready for newness, and while she lay dying, she could not speak, so she wrote, “I want to go home” or “When can I go home” I can’t recall exactly and we weren’t sure what she meant.    Since she was a deeply spiritual person, we thought she might be implying her spiritual home.   She died very quickly, so most likely she would not have made it all the way home even if we had begun the process.  And dying en-route in a gurney or ambulance would have been dreadful.  We did the best we could at the time.

Since my experience was hospitals, that was all I knew.  I couldn’t imagine dying at home was a good thing.  I was wrong.  For my father-in-law it was perfect.   He had designed many aspects of his own house, built parts of it himself and lived there for over 50 years.  It was the keeper of his joy, his pain, his loves, his work, his life — it was the perfect place for him to pass his spirit into it’s next adventure.  Since we had discussed the art of shape shifting at different times, in some moments, I imagine his spirit simply shape shifted into the house and became the house.  He loved it so much.  I mean, really, I don’t know where his spirit is, but it sure doesn’t feel like it has gone too far.

So now I learned that bringing someone who is terminally ill home, can make death feel a little less scary —  like just another part of life.   Like many people, we moved his hospital bed into the living room so he would be a part of the daily happenings in the house.  Life moved on around him and when he was conscious he could hear us, smile at things that were funny, growl at things that hurt, and participate in life with even just his consciousness, his beingness, participating as he could until the very end.    We had a professional attendant 24/7 and daily visits by the hospice nurse, and over-care by family so he was well taken care of.  Almost every breath of his last days was witnessed by someone nearby who cared.

In those moments I became aware of the beauty of breathing. How profound it is to even take one breath.  Time slows down near the end – every second feels like a minute, every minute feels like an hour.  A lot of love slips in during those moments.   Secrets of the universe can slip in during those gaps and my recommendation is that you be there if you can.

For death, most likely we’ll need the Baby Boomers to bring a forbidden subject into the light and I am grateful again to be living in their shadow.  Boomers have a way of making anything that happens to them a big deal.  And I appreciate it.  They are great teachers.  So as they near death, I imagine they’ll again carry the torch of speaking up about the previously taboo subject.

This article in the LA Times on why end-of-life discussions are important has a lot of great things to consider:  http://ow.ly/11uH1

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Take your time with the belongings of the deceased. do not pressure yourself to “handle things” and do not let anyone else pressure you to “handle things”.
Touch everything you want to touch.
Acknowledge everything you want to acknowledge.
Remember everything you want to remember.
Treat it all with love and respect.
You are not just cleaning out a house, or a closet. You are being given the opportunity to walk through a life. Treat it with respect and love.
One friend of mine has yet to clean out her mother’s clothing and belongings a couple of years after-the-fact. She said she’ll go visit her dad and see a scarf or sweater or something else of her mother’s and take it home with her. She said she can feel her mother’s energy when she wears those things and it’s a little piece of her mother with her.
How beautiful.
Taking home little pieces like that has made the change smoother and a little easier for her.

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The hard-copy of “Do You Still Laugh? Do You Still Sing?” is currently being re-designed for e-book distribution and new hard copy.

If you would like to receive notification of publication, leave a comment in the comments section below. Or you can contact the author by email and she will put you on the list for advance notification. Email address: melindaaugustina AT yahoo DOT com

Thanks for your interest – we wish you peace in all of your relationships. 🙂
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Mother,
     We go through your things too quickly.  Thousands of objects in this house – big ones, little ones, your hands have touched them all.
     I learned recently that our hands and arms are part of the energy circuitry of our hearts.  That means your heart has also touched each of these objects.
     Everything feels so soft when I touch it.  It seems to have your love on it.  Everything and everywhere.  How do you do that?
     Everyone thinks I cry because you are gone – and that’s not it.  I cry because our expression of love seems so meager compared to yours.  Ours is so hard compared to your softness.  How will we ever learn?

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