A post by writer Ann Jacobus:
As a writer, everything is a story for me, with a beginning, a point of no return, a crisis and a climax, a resolution, and a theme or moral.
I lost my mother, 74, in December of 2011,
My father died at 82 in January of this year, thirteen months later.
And they weren’t even married.
But they both battled cancer of one kind and another for many years.
I got a double crash course in dying, or in the “final stage” as Hospice calls it.
And the theme or moral I’ve determined is that we all should be less wiggy about death.
My folks died as they lived.
Mom, laid back and accepting on one hand; not afraid, yet on the other hand, enjoying some denial right up to the end.
Dad, fighting and refusing to relinquish control until the last forty-eight hours. That’s when, after nine months of serious illness, Hospice finally became a part of his care.
They raged against the dying of the light in their own ways, but I’m convinced they both finally made peace with their departures and went gentle, even gratefully “into that good night.” (Thanks Dylan Thomas)
I find this encouraging.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating just giving up.
But we’ll all have to die eventually.
And as we get older (versus the alternative), we all have to watch it happen to those we love.
If every plant and animal and human goes through the life cycle, with death being not only a normal part of this, but the most certain, guaranteed thing we’ve got, maybe we shouldn’t fear it so much.
There clearly comes a point when accepting it and moving forward into it makes sense. Even if it’s just the last day or two.
My mom was at home under Hospice care.
Dad was in the Hospice unit in the hospital.
I cannot say enough good things about Hospice.
They are such an antidote to our society’s fear and discomfort with death, dealing with both patients and their loved ones with dignity, in a gentle but straight forward manner, helping to make the “final stage” as rich and rewarding as it can be stressful and emotional.
I was honored and ultimately reassured to be present with both of my parents at the moment they stopped breathing in the quiet early morning hours.
The preceding days, two in my father’s case, four in my mom’s, were intense, sad, and full of wonder as the family found its own rhythms of coming and going, talking and silence, laughing and crying, keeping vigil at their bedsides.
The moment a loved one leaves this world is a sacred moment, difficult to describe in its power and awesomeness.
Being present at a birth (let alone giving birth) for me was a similar experience.
It brings us right up close with those big questions.
There’s that really big question: what happens to my parents, or to me, when we die?
Whether you are a religious and/or spiritual person, or not, check out this story—Neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander’s experience: Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife. He’s written a book, but was also featured heavily in other media a few months ago. My sister, a doctor, sent it to me after Dad died.
Story, myth, spirituality and science (sort of), all intersect here.
For someone who just sent both parents off from this world, it’s comforting to contemplate reports of such a happy ending, and support for the theme of being less wiggy.
Ann Jacobus lives in San Francisco with her family, where she writes YA and middle grade fiction, blogs regularly at www.ReaderkidZ.com, and is trying to be less wiggy about a lot of things. Learn more about Ann at her website,www.annjacobus.com
Top–Jake Jacobus at the helm in Edgartown Harbor, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Middle– Jake and Ann in Midland,Texas
Bottom– Ann Jacobus