Friday, November 17, 2006
What Matters
One of my grad school professors once said, "No one dies at the end of their life. They're always right in the middle when it happens."

As I've said before, I've been following the blog Atomic Tumor for a week or so, and it has been sort of hovering in the back of my mind most of the time. Their life circumstances were nothing like mine, and yet were exactly like mine, so the phrase "it could happen to you" is just a little too accurate. And scary, and perspective-inducing. The woman, BJ, was healthy right up until she was in the ICU in a coma. Bang. She got to kiss her kids, but she didn't know it was good-bye at the time, so does that count? (Damn right it does.) Her husband got to kiss her after the oxygen mask was removed, but she couldn't kiss back. Does that count? (See prior answer.)

So I've been pensive, and was spurred to action. Our wills are being notarized on Tuesday. We're leaving everything to each other, or to the kids. With custody of the kids going to my mother, as well as trusteeship and primary backup power of attorney. My mother-in-law's head is going to simply fall off her shoulders and burst open like an overripe melon if she ever finds out, and I suppose we probably should tell her to avoid one more tantrum just in case... but I don't wanna. I won't have to deal with that tantrum, in any case. She is Willem's backup health care proxy, so she plays a supporting role. She won't be appeased by this.

But the naked, shivery, unattractive truth is, I trust my mother with my children. I trust that she will allow Willem's family to see them and spend time with them. I trust that she will love them and make good decisions for them. I don't feel the same about my mother-in-law. Go figure.

Willem and I have also had a few Schiavo Conversations this week, you know the ones. Back when Terry Schiavo was in the news, we had the vague not-for-me statements, but in recent days we've been explicit. No heroic measures, no feeding tubes or life support in case of persistent vegetative state, and bedside reading aloud from Oprah's book list, because anything too heavy will only confuse me and anything too light won't encourage me to wake up and think. No music, I wouldn't be able to hear it anyway.

And let my babies see me, but only after all hope is done and they're sure it's the end. I don't want my kids to be scared and scarred to see Mama sick and unconscious in a hospital bed somewhere if I'm going to get better someday, but if I'm not going to recover, then I want them to see me, just briefly, before I die. So that they don't go on believing that people can be perfectly healthy and then suddenly die without warning, even though someday they'll realize that is, actually, quite possible.

Let them think that you have to get very sick first.

Let them think that death doesn't just jump up and grab you when you least expect it.

Let them think life is fair, for a little while longer.

And let them know how much their mother loves them. Always.