(Not her real name.)
Kyria Polyxeni was 93, very devout, extremely kind, even to those hardest for anybody else to love. She lived alone and did her own housekeeping, cooking, shopping, and gardening.
She took a bad fall one day and spent months in convalescence. When we visited her in the hospital, she expressed a wish to die rather than be a burden to her family. We said no, she must accept to live for as long as God appointed her to live, and must continue to rejoice in Him during her remaining time, just as she always had, must cherish the gift of life and guard and protect it. I called the priest, who went to her the next day to tell her the same thing.
So she did. We noticed a marked change in her thereafter when we’d go visit her in the hospital.
Then one day we noticed she was no longer connected to the IV.
"Terminal dehydration," as they call it, is among the most common ways to hasten a person’s death (along with Terminal Sedation). So we made her drink a couple of glasses of water while we were there, and told her how important it was for her to keep on drinking plenty of water. We said she must not simply wait for more to be brought to her if she should run out; she should ask for more and keep drinking at all costs, even if she didn't feel thirsty. (The elderly often don't.) She understood.
That night, I telephoned her family and said, “Did you know, Kyria Polyxeni’s doctors have disconnected her IV? And that’s dangerous because –”
“We are very satisfied with her doctors,” was the curt reply, clearly meaning, “Butt out.”
But guess what? Kyria Polyxeni kept on drinking water, and kept on living. Her family brought her home but would not allow her any visitors. “She’s our baby now,” they said. “She’s ours to take care of, and we need to be left alone to do it.”
Several weeks went by and Kyria Polyxeni still lived. Then one day she telephoned the priest and asked for his blessing to die. She said she was pretty sure her time had really come now and it was not just wishful thinking. So Father Nicholas gave her his blessing to die.
Kyria Polyxeni telephoned her best friends, of whom there were many, and asked them all to come over that evening. They did, and when they were all assembled in her room, she said, “I called you here to say goodbye.”
“Where are you going?” they asked.
“Home.” And she pointed upwards.
Some of the women began to cry. She chided them. “I’m happy,” she said. “Please, share my happiness; rejoice with me. I’m going home!”
So they dried their tears, hugged and kissed her one by one, and departed.
Kyria Polyxeni lay down and closed her eyes. Her lifeless body was found early in the morning, peace and joy still written upon her face.
She died on her own terms, and God's, when the time was right. She died peacefully, in her sleep, without suffering Terminal Dehydration. May we all die like that. May we all live like that!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
(Not her real name.)