I’m not afraid of dying. I don’t know why, but I’m not. I’ve often said, I’m more afraid of living than of dying. The thought of living 40 years beyond retirement frightens me to the core. I’ve never been a good saver. Conversely, I’ve been an EXCELLENT spender. As my mom would say often after I moved to Los Angeles, “If you spent as much time looking for a job as you did rollerblading, you’d be a millionaire.” And she was right. The nine months of rollerblading I enjoyed after first moving to Venice beach in 1996, broke me. But my legs looked GREAT!
Apparently, as the end of our lives draw near we all experience some fear of dying. If my mom feared death in those final days, she didn’t really show it. She would often say, “I’m gonna miss you when I go up there.” Which always melted my heart, because she seemed sure that there really was an “up there” to go to. That was encouraging. As a woman who wasn’t particularly religious in her life, this gave me some sort of solace that she had faith that there was something else after she left this place. And it helped to give me a little faith, too. There was no question she was going to a really nice somewhere. A place where we’d all meet again one day for a picnic. Everyone who stopped by in those last days was invited to my mom’s “picnic.” Oh how I hope there’s a picnic to go to. I’m about as good of a believer as I am a saver. I want so much to believe. Maybe when it’s my time to die, I’ll be planning my own picnic, too.
In the pamphlet, “A Time To Live,” Hospice Nurse Barbara Karnes writes, “When it comes time to die, we are all going to be afraid to some degree. Because few people talk about dying or tell us what its like to die, we don’t know what to expect. There comes a time when you’ll wonder “Am I going to die today? Is today the day?” If you can ask that question, then you are probably not going to die that day. The day you die, you won’t ask and you won’t care.”
My mom didn’t seem to care. In fact, she was getting antsy toward then end when she WASN’T dying. When the hospice nurse arrived on her last morning she took my mom’s blood pressure.
MY MOM TO HOSPICE NURSE: How was my blood pressure this morning?
NURSE: It was perfect!
MY MOM: Shit.
She was ready to go. And she didn’t know why the man at the end of her bed wasn’t taking her.