“It’s just her turn,” I say. Trying to justify the unjustifiable. Trying to shove words where none fit.
“Is that a consolation prize?” My father says, who is going to see his dying sister, to review paperwork while she still has her mind.
“No,” I say and my brain enters the foot-in-the-mouth, but I’ll-try-to-peddle-out of-it-by-more-talking program. “Life is the consolation prize; death is the sure thing.”
I’m not sure if it’s a poignant thing to say or a callous one, but I’m so heartbroken and feel an abyss of sadness for my aunt who has to choose to enter a hospital, knowing she’ll never check out. Knowing she has to say death – nothingness – is better than the excruciating life she’s having now. She can’t walk or eat or go to the bathroom by herself. She finds no joy or beauty and exists in the imprisonment of a painful body strangling her heart of gold.
Is putting her out of her misery another consolation prize? It doesn’t feel like it. It feels like another stray bullet hit a child, another life claimed too soon.
Just last week my father picked my aunt up from the hospital for the second time in two weeks. They thought they were waiting two hours for their discharge papers but alas a nurse comes with – drumroll please…a flu shot.
My father, at wit’s end from waiting in the hospital, stared at this nurse and said, “Are you fucking kidding me? A flu shot? Do you have a shot to bring her back to life?”
The nurse snickered at my father, who stood with his eyes bulging. “Now remember this only lasts a year, you’ll have to come back next year for another one.”
My father looked at her and questioned whether he had entered the Twilight Zone through the hospital doors. They had offered this woman hospice two hours earlier and then sent her on her way with the flu shot as a goody bag for the road to dying.
You can’t choose the way you come into this world and sadly in our country, we have limited control over the way we leave this world too. You either die at home in pain or do it according to their rules at the hospital, which aren’t always the most patient-centered.
“Do you want me to bring you to hospice?” my father asked his only sister. I think “sister” and feel like I was punched in the gut. I think about the gaping hole which will forever remain in his heart where her physical presence will morph into memories. I think about how, along with his sister, he loses his final connection to his parents, to his youth, to his family.
When I started my 365-autobiographical-essay-a-day project at the beginning of the year, I didn’t know what the year would have in store. I knew I wanted to write about my life stories as they relate to the human condition; I wanted to illustrate how humans ultimately all connect because we are the same species who need the same basic necessities to survive. What I didn’t expect was the constant source material life would continue to supply. 296 days in a row and I still have a long list of my own life stories I haven’t written and yet the world spins on, the calendar advances, people keep dying, and I keep typing.