Sunday, October 23, 2005


My mother is insisting on her right to die. “I want to sign that paper!” she says, making a broad signing gesture with her arm. “I want to sign that paper and take a pill and be gone.”

“It isn’t legal, Mom,” says my brother, leaning forward from his perch on the edge of the hospital bed. “And you don’t really want to die.”

“It is legal! I saw it on TV,” she asserts emphatically. “You sign some papers and then you can die. And I do want to die. If I can’t walk, I don’t want to be here anymore!” She is angry and frightened and experiencing pain with every movement.

Mom has had a series of falls in recent times, and has been growing more frail with each. She has spondylosis, severe osteoporosis and numerous compression fractures which are the source of her current pain. Each fall has led to greater fear; fear has kept her anchored to her recliner, and the subsequent loss of muscle has made her even more vulnerable to loss of balance. A vicious cycle of fear and loss which has led us all here, to the dreary rehab center just outside of Houston, Texas to which she was transferred from the hospital. Mom wants to come home. My brother, who has been her caretaker for the last four years, needs her to be mobile enough for him to be able to leave for a few hours at a time, and to get through the night without assistance. We are putting all our hopes on a prescribed two week course of physical therapy.

“Mom, do you want me to take you out in the parking lot and shoot you right now?” asks my brother, a manic gleam in his eye. “’Cause I will. If that’s what you want.”

“I do!” says my mother defiantly.

“And then I’ll go to jail. Because it’s not legal. It’s crazy.”

“Oh. Well, I don’t want you to go to jail,” relents Mom.

“It may be legal in Oregon,” I offer. “Maybe that’s what you’re thinking of.”

“Yes! I’ll go there!” Mom is elated.

“How will you get there?” I ask. “You can’t fly by yourself anymore.”

“You’ll take me!” she says, chin lowered, looking up at me with a sly grin. My brother laughs.

“Of course” I reply. “Lovely. A mother/daughter suicide trip to Oregon. It’s beautiful this time of year. We can take in some sights. I know ~ why don’t I just organize a tour? Me and a bunch of little old ladies in wheelchairs who want to die.” I lower my voice ominously. “Sixteen of us will go in…but only one will return. How’s that sound?”

She chuckles softly as she pats my knee with a gentle caress. “Okay, okay.” She sighs and gazes sadly at the floor. “But I really do want to die.”