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  • Writer's picture Gabrielle Elise Jimenez

I Grieve Too

I witnessed a death the other day … or should I say, another death.

 

In this particular case, it was a woman, under the age of sixty, who was suffering horribly from pain. She chose to exercise her legal right to take the end-of-life medications, also known as Medical Aid in Dying, which in California we refer to as EOLOA, “End of Life Option Act." She was hesitant to take too much pain medication through her illness because she wanted to be able to stay alert and present for her family, but the pain finally took a toll and she asked for assistance to get the process started for her.

 

While I can respect and appreciate those who do not support Medical Aid in Dying, I am a fierce advocate… something I have been very open about. I hope you will continue reading this blog with an open heart, some understanding, and without judgment.  

 

Prior to her taking the medications, I sat down with her and her family. I shared what to expect, what they might see, and what she might feel. It is important for me that I do not romanticize this process, giving people the impression that the medications will be be swallowed, and in minutes the last breath will be taken without any issues at all. In most cases, it is peaceful and beautiful, but I would never forgive myself if this time it wasn’t, and perhaps there were sounds, or skin color changes, or breathing issues, or it took several hours… leaving the family wondering why… why wasn’t it more peaceful? The truth of the matter is that the body knows what to do, even when given medications to hasten a death, and sometimes there are sounds, skin color changes, and it can often take a lot longer than we wish for.

 

There were many family members present, each one having their own unique thoughts about what was about to happen, some more on board than others. The ones who were not supportive struggled. I sat down with them, and this is what I said… “when someone is given a terminal diagnosis, their autonomy, their voice, and their choices are taken from them. They are in many ways forced to suffer and do their best not to let the people who love them know the depths of their pain. In their mind, and heart, they don’t want anyone else to bear the weight of the pain they feel so they try to minimize it. They often wish or dream of the day they close their eyes to sleep and don’t wake up, because they believe that would be easier for everyone. They are already dying, but those who love them want more time, we all want more time, and they don’t have the strength to fight with them, so they deal with their pain. This option gives them autonomy, and it gives them their voice… one that honors them in the beautiful way they deserve. They don’t want to leave you, they also want more time, but the thought of one more day dealing with their pain becomes incredibly burdensome for them. The kindest and most compassionate thing you can do for her, is support her…even though it won’t be easy. That will be the last and most beautiful gift you could ever give her.” They heard me, and by the time she was ready to take the medications they were all gathered around her bed, letting her know how loved she was, and that they were not walking away.

 

She took the medications, swallowing every drop as if it were the best tasting thing she ever had. She smiled at me, at the doctor, and at everyone in the room, because she knew she was loved, supported, and that she would finally feel peace.

 

I stepped back allowing the family to lean in closer. I listened to their tears as her breaths slowed and finally stopped. I could feel the sting of my own tears as they burned my eyes and stained my cheeks. Another life ended right in front of me, and despite how many times I have seen this, it still felt sacred, intimate, personal, and final.  And it always seems to feel like it is the very first time.

 

I left their home that day needing some quiet time to truly process the events that took place. This is when I do my own ritual and ceremony to honor a life, a death, a family who is grieving, and myself as well, because even though I have done this so many times, I grieve too.

 

xo

Gabby

 

For the instructions I share with families, and for the information I find helpful for anyone choosing to take the end-of-life medications, or are providing care for someone who is, please read my book “Dignity Day,” I think it will offer you comfort and clarity.








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sealady76
sealady76
May 19

I love the wording you gave to this family at this so very difficult time. I always like the part about - you are respecting her wishes. But the weight of these discussions and your presence can't be ignored or diminished. I am glad you are able to step away to care for yourself too. Blessings.

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