I will never forget it. I answered the phone one June morning in 2009. The voice on the phone said, “If you want to see your mother alive, you will come see her in the next few days.”
A doctor was calling from Washington state and explained that my mother, who was in her 60s, was in the final stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He gave her literally days to live.
Two days later, I was on a plane from New York to Tacoma. I went to see my mom, who was still in her apartment, since she said she wanted to die at home. She rallied while I was there, and was almost her normal self. A few days later, I went home, but asked her doctor and home health agency to keep in close contact with me.
About a month later, her health took a downward spiral. Her doctor was convinced she was definitely in the process of dying, so we agreed to put her in a hospice facility, since she could not receive hospice care in her own place. Mom was put on painkillers to make her comfortable. I expected that she would be there for a short time, then die peacefully.
That did not happen. Each time her grandchildren came to see her or I called and talked with her, she rallied again. Staff were amazed. Still, after six months, mom’s health did indeed take a turn for the worse and the doctor again said her body had begun the process of dying. My mother decided to go back home to Colorado to die. With agency help, we found her a place and she took the train, which is amazing given how ill she was.
Back in Denver, mom settled in and waited to die. But an odd and wonderful thing happened — she did not die. She eventually found a doctor who adjusted her medications and oxygen and took her off of all of the heavy pain meds. She got a new wheelchair and began to venture out into the community. Before long, she was back doing what she loved—volunteering to advocate for people with disabilities. Weeks after her return home, she traveled to Washington DC to help fight for disability rights.
Read more at The Federalist.