DEATH, TAKE MY HAND: ENDING LIFE WITH DIGNITY, COMPASSION AND COURAGE
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Type of Work171 pages
ProgramMFA in Creative Nonfiction
RightsThis work is restricted for 10 years from the date listed above. No access will be permitted until the embargo has expired. Once the embargo expires the work is available only on Goucher College's campus.
Death with dignity
End of life options
Physician assisted suicide
compassion and choices
Four things that matter most
Death as transformational process
Aging in place
Death bed reconciliation
Creative nonfiction -- Theses.
Death, Take My Hand is a memoir about witnessing death in many forms, told without pathos, and with a surprising degree of beauty and joy. The main thread traces first my mother-in-law in 2014, then my husband in 2017, as they each used Washington State’s Death with Dignity law (RCW 70.245) to meet their respective deaths. Part One follows my 91 year-old mother-in-law in her unrelenting—and at times humorous—attempt to age well, leaving no mess behind her, until cancer finally became the winning ticket that allowed her to exit a life that was complete. Part Two is the story of the last months of my husband’s decades long battle against his Vietnam Agent Orange-caused prostate cancer and his determination—and our sometimes wild adventures— as he tried to wring every last drop of juice from life. And in both sections, is the story of me, the witness, the caregiver, the midwife, learning as fast as I could to face the fear, speak the hard words, welcome Death into the room, and, most important of all, resist the urge to save lives past saving. Note posted on fridge: DO NOT CALL 911. Death, Take My Hand also explores the many faces of death in the lives of myself, my husband, and my mother-in-law. It shares the terrible casualties of my husband’s platoon members in Vietnam through the letters he wrote home; the tragic loss of my mother-in-law’s husband to Alzheimer’s told through her emails to her pen-pal; and my somewhat mystical path to reconciliation with my formerly abusive, mentally ill mother in the last days before she died. Death, Take My Hand is a story of will in many forms: the will to live; the will to die; personal will; political will; the will to fulfill commitments; the will to subjugate one’s personal desires to serve others; the will to forgive; the will to transform. It is a story of relationships—between husbands, wives, children, parents, grandparents, in-laws, friends, doctors, patients, medications, side effects and human bodies. Most important of all, it is a story of how consciously embracing death opens hearts to life, and love.
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