Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Let's Talk About Death, Bay-Bee

This morning at the post office I told an old woman that I hoped she would drop dead.

There's a woman I see here in Lloyd and I recognize her. She bought a house of mine about ten miles from here, back in, oh, I don't know. 1986? '87? Something like that. It was my beloved cracker house that my first husband and I had moved onto some property we owned and restored. When I got divorced, I felt like I had to move to town because I was a single mother and needed to go back to college and I needed to be able to get my babies to their preschool and I didn't need to be driving back and forth all the time and plus, I was young and afraid of living on my own deep in the country where I needed bulldogs to keep me safe.
Or at least, that's how I felt.

I held on to the house for some years and when I met Mr. Moon, his parents actually lived in that house for awhile. But then it came time to sell and we sold it to this lady and she lives there still. I don't think she remembers who I am. She just recognizes me now as that woman who walks and whom she sees at the Lloyd post office, which is like the pond in the middle of the Kalahari desert, where all the animals meet to drink.

This woman is an artist. She taught at FSU and her art was sculpture which she made by welding. She made HUGE sculptures. She made big art. And she can't do it any more and I don't know how she and I got to the subject of death so quickly in our quick encounter at the PO this morning but it did. I mean, one minute I'm holding the door open for her and the next minute, we're talking suicide.
She told me that since she can't do her art anymore, she feels as if her life has been taken from her. And that she's old. And her children don't live near her and that they talk about putting her in a nursing home and she wants to stay in that house with her two dogs (one, a bull mastiff, weighs 200 pounds and the other dog weighs 100 pounds) and she loves her solitude but dammit, when it's time to go, she wants to be able to just go. She said she's thought about cutting her wrists in the bathtub and instead of freaking out, I said, "Yeah, but it takes such courage and fortitude!"
"You're right!" she said. "Every way to end your own life is so hard and horrible! Why can't we just get help?"
And we talked about our dogs and how, when it's time for them to go, we do just that. We release them from their pain, from their misery and so why do we have to stick around and suffer?
It was quite a conversation. I told her that I've thought about this a lot. And that I completely agree with her.
She said that she doesn't believe in capital punishment- that it's not right to take someone else's life but that when you're done with yours, you should be able to go on.
"It's so HARD to die," she said. And you know, sometimes it just is.

So she sat there in her car and I stood there with my mail and we talked about all these things and about what makes life worth living and how neither one of us wants to linger forever and have people taking care of our decrepit old bodies and I said, "My hope for you is that you just suddenly drop dead one day and that's my hope for myself, too."

And she thanked me and said that's what she hoped for. No suffering and no miseries. Just be gone.

And I am thinking about her tonight in her house alone, the house I spent a lot of time in in my younger life, just down the road from here. She said she lies in bed and reads- that she can still get pleasure from reading and thank god- and her blue eyes were sharp and beautiful and I hope they last as long as she does and I hope her good brain does too.

It's been a long, good day, and Kathleen's appointment with Doctor DreamyMcCutie Pie went very well and he showed us pictures of his darling babies and he hugged Kathleen and it was all fine. And I studied lines and had a rehearsal and Owen is coming tomorrow at six a.m. and Mr. Moon got home and is off at a basketball game but I am thinking of that lady, that lady whom I told I hoped would get the great, good gift of dropping suddenly dead and I can see her, with her giant dogs on either side of her, slipping into peace the way Pearl did in my arms when the vet gave her that sweet shot. I hope for her sake that's how it happens. That it doesn't turn out to be hard to die. For her, at least.

I was grateful to be able to have such a real conversation about such real things. That we understood each other and there was no bullshit about it. That when she said that about cutting her wrists in the bathtub, I didn't feel I had to say, "Oh, no! You wouldn't do THAT!"

We're all going to die. And if we humans had a lick of sense about it all, we'd be able to have options for that certain ending as much as we do about whether or not to get pregnant or where to go to school or what to make our lives look like or where to go for dinner after the show. We wouldn't spend our entire lives pretending it was never going to happen to us.
Or our loved ones.

I'm not going to go into a big rant on euthanasia here. I'm just going to say that today I told an old woman that I hope that she gets to drop dead and she thanked me and it was awesome.
And if I love you, I will wish the same for you.

And I would hope you would wish the same for me.


  1. I wish the same for all of us. but there are many people out there in the world that don't want us to have any control over out lives and bodies especially about when and if we get pregnant and what we are able to do about it if we do. them, I hope they linger.

  2. I know, exactly, what you mean.

    I love you, for what that is worth, and it's a joy to visit you here everyday.

  3. I wish the same for her and you and me and everyone. I don't like the idea of anyone suffering, even those whom others may think deserve it.

  4. Great post. Made me smile and nod and say amen.

  5. I do wish it. For all of us who want it that way.

  6. I giggled out loud when I read you had told that old lady to drop dead.
    Oh I agree so much with that conversation! I've always said we are so much kinder in death to the animals than we are to other human beings. With the animals it's always "put them out of their misery" while with humans it's keep the body alive long after the person has already gone.
    Ugh, I could rant for hours. A and I routinely have these conversations.
    I'll wish you goodnight with the hope that when our time comes we can all just drop dead.

  7. I wish it, too. And have you ever seen Javier Bardem in the Spanish movie "The Sea Inside"?

  8. Drop Dead

    by Tamara Madison

    You spat it out like venom
    at your playground enemy
    and it felt so good to say
    Drop dead! Late in life

    it becomes a sweet mercy
    to imagine: one minute
    you're treading the earth
    as ever, the next you're gone!

    No hospitals, MRIs, CAT scans,
    surgery, no loved ones
    standing around wondering
    if you're still breathing

    and what to do with you
    in case you are. And though
    I'll never be ready for you to go,
    as long as it is your wish

    to leave this way, it is mine.
    And may it happen on a day
    when you are singing with friends,
    laughing at a joke, dancing

    in your living room.
    May it come to you before
    you know it and you'll find
    yourself flying, a balloon

    cut loose, taking one last glance
    at this fond world that you have loved.
    Though it will feel so cold to us,
    this world without you, still

    with all my heart here is my wish
    for you dear friend, mother,
    kindred soul: when the time comes,
    Drop dead!

    "Drop Dead" by Tamara Madison, from Wild Domestic.

    I have this poem taped to my vanity mirror...so yes I truly understand your feelings on this.

  9. Yes. My father's cousin's mother in law dropped dead suddenly at 84, a week after my mother died. And I was so jealous. So jealous of that experience. To have your mother so long and have no suffering or responsibility or decisions or pain or loss of any dignity. It was a brilliant death, at least in comparison.

    I also heard a story though, of a woman who had cancer and travelled to get euthenased - she made one of her daughters come with her, and I think it was pretty awful - the mother escaped, but the daughter lived with the whole thing for a long time. There are no easy answers to this one, sadly.

  10. I think the same way about being able to have control over your own death. I have relatives that have died from ALS and I think that if I were to get that or some other terminal disease, I want to be able to decide to die. Of all of the things in the world we should be able to control, that is it.

  11. I recognized immediately who you were talking about in this post since I work in the College of Visual Arts, Theatre and Dance at FSU, and she always amazes me. In fact, she was just up here in the office visiting us this past week. She was the student adviser in the Art Dept for years until she retired. If not for her, my son would never have gotten his Art degree. She cared so much about the students and we still miss her. And you are right, she has the most beautiful blue eyes! One time she showed us a picture of herself when she was younger and we all thought we were looking at a picture of Angelina Jolie. I always feel good after a conversation with her. I hope she gets her wish about how she dies.

  12. In a week I will be lighting a memorial candle for my father who died just the way he should have. One moment here. One moment not.

    The EMTs said he didn't even have a millisecond to think: "I'm dying".

    Although it was way too soon, he was only 73 and very strong, it was the best way for him. My father would not have been good at dying.

    It is what I wish for all those that I love.

  13. Wow! Oh, Mary......this is one of the most meaningful and true and fantastic (to me) blogs you have ever written.

    Actually, you stole my blog idea....if you had not written this, I might have, but probably not as well. Pure genius and total bravery.

    Luv you.

  14. Both my parents died this way. It certainly is my hope also. It is so peaceful.

  15. No real family, no church. No closest friends. I am trying to change all this as I learn to live more and more without depression and fear. I liked your earlier comment about that--easier to live and you get more done without fear and depression.

    I worry about being 86 and having no one to talk to. I worry about dying a lone. We all die alone But I would like the illusion of someone who actually knows my middle name holding my hand while I die. Am I going to have to pay someone to do that?

    What if I can't work up until I die? What if I have nothing to write, teach, contribute? What if I am not able to care for myself.

    All the questions everyone asks. Couldn't there be a commune for women who have reached the end of it?


Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.