|General Fiction posted June 28, 2013||Chapters:||1 -2- 3...|
Time to leave tor euthanasia house
A chapter in the book One Death at a Time
The Beginning of the End
Carl is diagnosed with cancer and is desperate to end the pain. They look and find a means to the end.
The Beginning of the End
I was glad to get back home and to my medication. My wife was glad too. I loved lying next to Colleen. I hate to say that she was like an old shoe, but she was. It was so good to just know she was there. Her twitching at night was like a rocking chair for me, soothing. I felt secure.
I knew after I was dead, she would miss me for a long while. I also knew it would be a relief in some ways.
I don’t think my presence in bed was a comfort to her. My bathroom breaks, every two hours and my moaning and groaning every time I turned over in bed. And of course - the silent tears. She could always tell. Maybe it was the shaking bed. I tried my hardest to control it. She’d reach over and touch my cheeks to gently wipe the tears. She never said a word, but she understood.
It was the day before the trip. We had no idea how long this would really take. We had made funeral arrangements months before. We packed enough for two weeks, just as we were told.
On the map, it looked to be an eight hour drive. We had to stop every few hours to walk around. We wished we had taken a plane.
We stopped about four hours into our journey. The hotel halfway through was nothing interesting, but a bit awkward when the desk clerk asked where we were headed. To the doorway of death, I wanted to say. Instead, my wife said, “Just visiting some friends.” Little did I know then, that my wife's response would not be far from the truth.
When we arrived, it was shocking.
Somehow, I had pictured a small modern sterile clinic. Perhaps it was because I equated this with an abortion center. A home for the unwanted or useless.
It wasn’t. It was a home. A large older home, made mostly of stone. It was in the country, surrounded by large oak and maple trees. On the side of the house was a garden, that looked tended to. And in back of that was a large clearing with oriental lights all around the sides and chairs set up in a circle.
Being the end of August, in the Poconos, it was still, but not utterly hot. Just right, really. No parking lot. But about five cars parked on the far side of the house in the grass.
We parked the car. A gravel path led to the house. Not knowing what to expect, we knocked softly on the door. Immediately, a short gray-haired woman answered. Wrapping her shawl around her tightly, I noticed she was extremely frail and thin. But she smiled warmly and motioned us in.
Before us on the right was a stone fireplace, unlit. But I could still smell the scent of burnt wood, as if a fire was lit the night before. Adjacent to the fireplace, a plump brown soft sofa with two woman chatting about. One was dressed in maroon skirt suit and feathered hat and looked like she was about to try out for “Gone with the Wind.” Next to her, a woman with old housecoat sat. They were playing what looked like gin rummy.
I heard a whistle from the kitchen. A younger man appeared and asked if we would like some of his fresh baked oatmeal cookies. He was bald, had no eyebrows and wore jeans and a tee-shirt.
I felt like I had just entered into some twilight zone. I thought perhaps we had made a wrong turn.
My wife spoke up. “Is this 34 Hampton Rd?”
Everyone smiled and giggled. The young man confirmed it was and led us to the left down a hall.
Inside, more surprises. Past the fireplace room and to the left, a long hallway stood. Along the way we passed a few doors that were closed, but I could hear voices inside.
At the end there was a large porch room. Windows from floor to ceiling, sheer white curtains and decorations of such a large variety on the walls, I couldn’t begin to come up with a theme. On the floor was a rug from the 60’s. It was a bright green long shag carpet. Two wind chimes were at one corner of the doorway. One with metal butterflies and the other was home-made. It was a series of pens, pencils clanging together with shells in between and a large rock. We brushed by it. I wondered who made it. Everything looked clean, but far from sterile.
We were ushered into two outdoor white wicker chairs. The woman in red turned away from her desk and faced us. I thought she was at least 60. I found out later, she was 82. She was full of life and vigor. I would have expected this to be a solemn occasion. It appeared to be the opposite.
“Hi, I spoke to you on the phone and I understand, you are looking for an alternate plan.”
Alternate plan? That’s one way to put it. Were we being recorded? Was she afraid that we would be the FBI trying to close down this Dr. Kevorkian site?
“I know it must have been hard to make this decision, but many have. However, we do have some requirements. But I want you to know that everything here is confidential. From here on in, you can choose to be known by any name you like. I have chosen “Mom”. So that one is taken. I will give you a list of all the other residents here after our discussion.”
“Residents? Wait, wait, I don’t want to go to a nursing home.”
“Oh, dear, no. That is not at all what we do here. Although, we do have nurses and doctors affiliated with us that come and go. You did make a decision to die, didn’t you?”
She said this so pleasantly. It was as if she was asking if we had indeed chosen the grand prize of a car.
“Well, yes, of course. I believe I mentioned this on the phone.”
She smiled and took my hand in hers. I was impressed by both her forthrightness and her warmth.
“There seems to be no other option. I can’t prolong my suffering any longer.”
“No need to explain, like I said before, we can assist you. But we do have some requirements.”
“Certainly, I understand. How much is this going to cost?”
“There is no cost.”
I must have opened my mouth quite wide, because my wife gently pushed up my chin.
Then ‘Mom’ continued. “We do accept donations for our services to help keep the place up, though. Unfortunately, these are not tax deductable.”
Of course this made sense. It couldn’t be a legal organization, could it?
“What is the name of this place?”
“We like to think of it as a ‘helping group’. Getting back to the requirements. We do expect you to stay here two weeks. The reason for this is because we have had people come to us desperate, only to change their minds in a few days. And this is understandable. You are always free to go at any time. We have social workers, doctors, nurses, aides, experienced caretakers, cooks, housecleaners, lawyers and even undertakers that visit free of charge. We have their visits scheduled on the board and you are free to add your name, if you wish to see one while they are visiting.“
My wife spoke up. “There is no charge for these either?”
“None at all. It is amazing, I know. Every day, we have groups and recreation that you can participate in. Today is Friday and right now in the next room, there is a group that is getting ready to write letters to those left behind. It is pretty intense. We try to balance things out though. After dinner tonight, we are having a ‘celebration discussion’ to discuss all the opportunities and successes we have had in our lives.”
“Where would we stay?,” my wife asked.
“Good question. Upstairs. This is a big home. Right now there are two rooms open. You may have your choice. There are some rather long papers to fill out, but they will be nothing like you have filled out ever before, I promise you. I will give them to you now and we will talk about them tomorrow."
She must have sensed how tired we were. We could not have handled filling out papers nor groups for today. Dinner would be enough.
"There are seven residents here now and three companions. Not all are as lucky as you Carl to have a support person staying here. There will be others in and out who are volunteer professionals, but we refer to them as ‘friends’. So if you hear someone say a friend is here, you can look on the board. Of course, everyone will have fictictious names. Sometimes, it is rather funny.”
“I am very confused. Who organized all this?”
“It’s forever changing. I want you and your wife to feel free to ask or suggest anything. I live here too and my room is right here, next to the office. Remember, you can talk to Mom about anything.”
With that, she points to her name tag. It has flowers and leaves all around it. Mom is written in beautiful script. She smiles so broadly, that one would think she has just welcomed someone into Disney World.
I was speechless.
Amongst the large pile of papers scattered, she handed us our own packet.
We followed her up to the rooms. She showed us two of them. My wife picked one out. It was Victorian style and elegant.
That night, we had dinner with the ‘bunch’. Just reading the name tags were entertaining. There was “Greta”, short for Greta Garbo, who was dressed the part. There was “Smile”, the younger man who greeted us with cookies. He explained that his name tag works. People smile.
“Stevenson” was a wannabe famous poet and writer, who ended up being very helpful for all of us.
“Hazel”. You guessed it, right from the show, with an apron and all. She loved helping people and she volunteered here every day. She usually wore an apron or housecoat and was a bit stocky.
Two couples chose to eat on the patio, outback. Perhaps we would meet them tomorrow.
Smiley served us and we ate together. Hazel cleaned and washed the dishes. We found out Smiley had a rare form of pancreatic cancer. Doctors said it had spread. He had less than three months to live. He had been here for a week and recommended all the groups to us.
“If I could, I would stay here for another two months. Everyone here is so kind. I feel much better about dying than I did when I first arrived. I know I made the right choice, “ Smiley said calmly.
Smiley’s family were sparse. He only had one sister who was living. She was not aware he was there. He wanted it that way.
We had a long day and were both tired. After dinner we went to our room.
Our minds were flooded with questions. My wife wrote a list. I couldn’t wait to get into my medicine bag and then into bed. We would catch the celebration of life group another night.
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