Allies In Transition

How To Prepare For A Peaceful Death: Allies In Transition
Thoughts From The Field

Allies In Transition
April 9, 2004

April 10th was the birthday of one of my dearest friends who died in October 2003. As a memorial to Marian, who put up an extraordinary fight with cancer, I am beginning this first in a series of articles on death and how to be an ally.

Since this first session is dedicated to Marian, let me tell you why she prompted me now. Marian was also a nurse. Marian was a dedicated and incredible artist as well and a friend to fellow members of the bead crafts guild, who will miss her too.

Marian and her late spouse were longtime friends of our family. My husband died first. Several years later, her husband was hospitalized and on life support. Marian and I had two long discussions about her husband’s desire to die when quality of life wasn’t available to him. As a result of our discussions, Marian was able to make the decision to stop life support.

Three years later, Marian had her first indication of an abdominal tumor. For two years Marian bravely took on chemo, surgeries, and more experimental chemo. None of these efforts were successful. When I last saw Marian at Christmas time 2002, we talked about my video, Allies In Transition. She asked me if I would be with her “in the last days”.

Throughout Marian’s ordeal with chemo and all of its side effects, her daughter Kim was a vigilant caregiver for her Mom. Kim also continued working, and as a graduate nutritionist, made the best possible meals for her Mom who could barely swallow at times. As Marian came to her last days, I wasn’t able to travel to be with her. However, I called Kim everyday and helped her get the best care for her Mom with Hospice nurses.

Kim became a true ally for Marian when she and Marian agreed to a plan to allow Marian to give up and die peacefully. Marian said she no longer wanted to be fed or given fluids. At this point Kim needed and had my support to stick to the plan that she and Marian had established no food, no drink. Marian’s pain was being controlled with a pain pump which was regulated by the hospice nurse. Once Kim and Marian decided on the plan to allow Marian to remain in a medicated pain free state without stimulation of food or drink or conversation, Marian was able to slip away peacefully with Kim lovingly in attendance.

You have to have courage as an ally. Kim’s courage to listen to Marian’s wishes, instead of her own desire to give Marian the food that was so specially prepared, was a selfless gift. Kim had watched Marian’s courage throughout the two year struggle to survive with a large melon sized tumor growing inside of her abdomen. Marian was Kim’s role model for making courageous decisions. I am happy that I was also able to be Marian’s ally as well “in her last days.”