FROM MY PERSONAL DIARY: Friday July 30, 2004
Tonight, through horrific pain and tears, my grandmother told me she wants to die.
My family has a secret. Most families have some kind of quiet unspoken secret. Mine is no different, except we’re going through it again. My grandmother is known affectionately as Nana, and she’s been married to her soul mate Papa for 62 years. Raised during the Great Depression in an orphanage 85 years-ago, Nana proved, for the first of many times, that she was no wimp. Her life has been filled with battles. For example, 25 years ago she won her first battle with cancer. Now bone cancer is tearing apart her soul and her appreciation for this earthbound experience. I'm sorry to say that only God knows what this is doing to Papa.
My sister is getting married in October, and, as you can imagine, we’re all doing our best to give Nana the goal of healing so she can be at the wedding.
You might be asking yourself, “Why’s Todd sharing this with me?”
Please understand that this is all I know how to do. I’m a writer, a former talk show host, and a story teller. So, when the spirit moves me, all I know how to do is share.
My wife and I spent the weekend in Las Vegas at my grandmother’s bedside. A year in agony, lying helplessly in bed, has transformed my warm grandmother into someone I never knew.
Also, none of us can forget that my family has a twenty five year-old secret whose wounds are being ripped wide-open.
Papa’s parents, my great-grandparents, were soul mates too. Married 65 years, they lived into their 90’s. Some would say my family is blessed with excellent genes and longevity. Yet, to Nana, this feels like a curse. I guess that’s why she told my wife and me, from her bed, to die young. “It’s much easier.”
Some secrets are better taken to the grave, but ours needs to be heard.
If you’ve ever looked deep into the eyes of two people who are madly in love, then you’ve seen into the hearts of my great-grandparents. Morris and Vera were love-birds, even after 65 years of marriage. Everything changed when I was seven years-old, and, like most closely held family secrets, I only know the really important details. Vera’s health deteriorated quickly and before we knew it she was in UCLA hospital. With no chance of ever coming home again, and, her pain beyond comprehension, modern medicine did one thing very well- they prolonged her agony. It’s amazingly shameful that our “civilized” society has nothing to offer our dying elderly but eternal life filled with eternal pain.
My family might be the closet family you’ll ever meet. We’re everything families strive for and my Nana is the reason we’re like this. Because we cherish each others friendship in our lives, we’ve spent all of our vacations together. In fact, my honeymoon, at age 30, was my very vacation where family wasn’t present. My family is this close precisely because Nana came from an orphanage and created a family that doesn’t deserve the pain of the secret we carry.
My 90 year-old great-grandmother was a woman who lived an honorable and loving life. She raised four boys during the Great Depression and even adopted two girls that had no home. That’s why I’m sad to say that this beautiful and honorable woman was forced to spend her last moments on Earth committing suicide. Only God knows what that did to my great-grandfather Morris.
A few weeks after we laid my great-grandmother to rest, 92 year-old Morris drew a warm bath, climbed inside, and, with tears running down his wrinkled face, slit his wrists. You see, they were soul mates and, without Vera, Morris had no reason to live.
FAST-FORWARD TO THE PRESENT
This is my family’s secret. It’s the subject we don’t talk about, and the pain that lies deep in each of our hearts.
I’m sharing my pain with you because I’m not willing to sit back and watch the next generation of my family repeat the same eternal act of love. Sure, some might think suicide is sacrilegious, and that’s ok if you feel that way. I honor your beliefs. I, on the other hand, believe God would never want to prolong the pain and agony of the dying, and that’s what we continue to do in America. Clearly this is inhumane.
Life has a way of presenting ironic and hyper-coincidental events. While my wife and I were at my grandmother’s bed this weekend, my in-laws had to put to sleep their beloved cat that has been in the family for many years. Their veterinarian said it was the humane thing to do. Why are we only willing to do the humane thing for non-humans?
Do you want to know what humane is? Humane is my grandmother passing away in peace. She’s lived a life worth emulating and deserves to die in the most loving manner possible. If she asked me to help her die, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment, because she deserves death with dignity, not what her father-in-law did out of love 25-years ago, slit wrists in the bathtub.
Nobody should be forced to endure what my grandmother is going through. Nobody should be forced to end their life in a pool of blood like my great-grandparents did, and nobody should carry the secret pain that I feel in my heart. And what is this doing to Papa? Nobody knows...
Keeping this a secret wouldn’t be humane.
To be continued...
Major developments happened after I wrote this.
You won't believe what happens in Part 2
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