it can’t be easy accepting that death has come for you. some may respond with a sigh, others with a shout of rage, many may just expire (that final use-by date having passed.) when the doctors shrug and say, “there’s nothing more we can do, we’ll have to release her to home care, it’s time for her to die,” (“,but she won’t” is the unspoken part of their bedside homily), you bundle her up and bring her home — without much expectation that she will agree to do as she should and let go. (i don’t mean to sound cruel, but i hope when it’s time for me to die, that i’ll accept it with some equanimity and not struggle against the inevitable.)
this is where we find a friend of ours, at the threshold of dying, refusing to step over and disappear behind that door. it’s not that we wish she’d die, or even want her to, but the quality of her life in these last couple of years (she’s over 90) has deteriorated and her last hospital stay (a month!) was mostly comatose, a feeding tube, ivs, and monitors all a-beep.
complicating her passing, at least from our point of view, is her avaricious son, and whether or not the rest of this statement is fair, has expressed his disdain for her life and his desire for what she’s leaving him is more important than the time she has left.
if we were to look back at their relationship, as little as we know, it has been ever so. he rarely acknowledged any love for her, showing up with his hand out, on which she would lay a golden check, and without a thank-you, he’d be out the door. then she’d turn on us (we worked together) and the next few days would be filled with her anger and disappointment filtered through manipulation and despair at this failure.
we were too circumspect (and respectful of other people’s lives) to ask what had happened that she would have a son who loved her so little. (at this time, there was another son, her obvious favorite, the youngest, the one she lavished her affection on, and in his way returned–although the transfer of money was also an integral part of their relationship. her great loss was his death in a motorcycle accident, leaving her with the ungrateful and cruel older son as her legacy.)
our working relationship deteriorated over time until she moved away and we stopped talking, for a decade or more, until in some odd twist of fate (aren’t they all odd?) we came back together through a mutual friend. and since then (with an exception, which i’ll get to) we have had a most wonderful relationship with her. she, as she’s always been, is sharp-witted, sharp-tongued (in a funny, pointed way), highly intelligent, well-read, au courant, artistic and a delight to be around. she turned out to be more generous than she had been and her circle of friends adored her.
however she has been particularly cruel to her closest friend, the one who has helped her the most in her declining years, the one who loves her the most of all her friends, the one the rest of us defer to in the matters of her health and well-being. if this object of her derision and abuse were any less loving a friend, there would be no doubt that she would have died much sooner, for her son (who lives in another city) does not care at all what happens to her.
it comes as no surprise that she is angry. it hurts us that she is being so cruel to her one dear friend. what, though, can be done? all that we can do is shower her with love and stand by her, and hope that she’ll accept our love with grace and at last find the strength and the peace to let go of this life.