Sunday, April 22, 2007

Perpectives On Dying with Dignity

This month's installment of "Perspectives On..." is about dying with dignity. The following reflections are courtesy of Allie Stentsland. Her recorded thoughts on her last days with her husband are truly poignant. The words of the hospice nurse as she says "It's obvious that Ry is well cared guys are doing a good job," are a testimony of the dignity of those last days. He fought valiantly with CF from the battlefield of his couch.

Ry's fight ended on May 5, 2005.

The small things
Being in a holding pattern is never easy. I knew Ry was on a downhill slide, but sometimes when I looked at him even now, I could not see it. I looked into his eyes, and there was no fear, no pain, nothing but a little of bit of tiredness, and a lot of love. It made it easy to forget that Ry really was dying. It was nothing like what all the movies, books, and other people had led me to believe. It wasn't a dramatic, horrible giving up. It was this gradual winding down, like a sun setting, where you didn't notice from minute to minute, and even though it's going to go dark, there's a quiet beauty in it.

The hospice nurse had come by to check on Ry, make sure we had enough drugs, and make sure I was doing okay. Ry had listened to his own lungs, interested, with a fascinated smile on his face. "That's so crazy. It sounds like a plastic bag." He laughed and thanked the nurse, going back to leaning back on the couch and watching a documentary on the Amazon, Ahava under the protection of his arm. I showed her to the door, and she turned to face me.

"I know, he's not doing well. I know he's not long for the world." She smiled at me "That's not what I was going to say. I was going to say it's obvious that Ry is well cared for." She put her hand on my shoulder. "You guys are doing a good job."

I looked at the floor and thanked her, ashamed for having cut her off. I shut the door and walked back into the living room. Ahava had fallen asleep, and Ry was stroking her hair. He looked up at me and smiled weakly, and I walked to the couch to sit by him.

"You worry too much. Always have, Al." Before I have a chance to say anything. "How do you know I'm worried?" I say, a bit snottily. I know he knows me all to well, and he's entirely correct..I am worried about him.

"Don't be dumb with me, Allie. I'm dying, not retarded." He looked at me, with a disapproving glance, but quickly broke into a smile. "Allygator, listen. Things are what they are. Worrying isn't going to make it any different. In my mind, I've already been through the worst part. So who cares?" he paused for a minute, eyes closed, catching his breath. "Turn up the tunes, a few more drugs, be with your's all okay. It's okay Al, I promise."

I looked away from hm for a second, and listened to that sounds that wove thought my house. The oxygen whispering into Ry's lungs, the soft snore of my little girl protectively nestled next to her father, the creak of the wood expanding in the April sun.

"How do I do that?" I said, almost to myself.

He took my hand, and kissed it. "Just enjoy the little things. that's all."

That was all. And that was everything.

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