My friend’s mother is going to die tomorrow. A little after nine o’clock in the morning.
And I haven’t got a clue how to feel.
I am a very close friend of her son and his family; we have shared in each others’ weddings, children, and lives for more than two decades. I’ve spent time with his mom on several occasions over the years, and I’ve always found her to be, let’s say, a little challenging to get along with. That said, I am in no way prepared to accept that the end of her life has arrived, regardless of how that plays out.
Over the past month, she has taken seriously ill. Until a month ago, she was independent and strong, still in her seventies, living alone and managing. But a minor medical issue turned into emergency surgery and ensuing complications. To the point that, within four short weeks, she has decided to end her own suffering through medically assisted suicide.
Until now, I have always been supportive of the idea. We fully buy into the process to help end the suffering of our pets. I’ve had to make the difficult decision twice for dogs of whom I just couldn’t ask more. Yet we force our most beloved people to endure months, even years of treatments and setbacks that only delay the inevitable. I’ve had the soul-ripping responsibility of having to decide to finally end treatment for three family members, allowing nature to take its course and end their lives.
But this, this planned, contrived, even welcomed, procedure for this woman, suddenly hits me in ways I didn’t expect.
On one hand, I respect that it’s her decision. She knows her limits, she defines her own quality of life, she controls her very existence. And I can’t help but think, if it were me, and assuming things were bad enough that I truly believed that this was what I wanted, I would want the option as well.
On the other hand, I think she’s being incredibly selfish. Perhaps it’s the expectation, placed forcibly on family and friends, to accept her decision that I’m having trouble with: she’s ready to give up, whereas I am not. (And I’m not even within the family circle that will be with her tomorrow when she leaves.)
But on the first hand, she is saving her closest people the agony of having to…