the act of suffering

“You wouldn’t treat a dog this way,” my wife’s cousin said about her father’s end, a peaceful euthanasia after years of cancer. He was a wonderful man, and the suffering that came before the end was horrendous.

Alzheimer’s latched on to my mother-in-law and after years of downward spiral, landed her in the hospital. We thought she was going to die. Once in the hospital, she rallied, and we were looking at another six months or a year in a long-term care home, which though sad, would at least keep her semi-comfortable toward the end.

We hoped.

But then, there was an outbreak of COVID in her ward at the hospital, while waiting to be placed in long-term care, and now, we are well and truly near the end. Part of me curses this damned plague and the motherfuckers who couldn’t be bothered to show enough compassion for others to bring this thing to heel before it ever got so bad; the other half is relieved that she won’t have to continue the way she has indefinitely.

My grandmother with the same deteriorating condition lasted way beyond expectations. We went through multiple scares before she finally succumbed. Alzheimer’s is one of the most heartbreaking diseases I could even imagine. It’s soul-crushing to watch what it does to a person you love, and the pain can last for years. COVID’s (relatively) quicker release would seem almost humane if it wasn’t so barbarous in its application.

(For the record, my grandmother died pre-COVID, of Alzheimer’s. It was beyond disturbing to see how this kind and jolly woman who, for my whole life, baked us cookies and chuckled at all my grandfather’s silly jokes, degraded into this barely functional vessel, unable to keep her head up or communicate with any clarity or duration.)

Because of restrictions, I haven’t been to the hospital since the night my mother-in-law first went in, when we all thought that was the last night. That was almost a month ago. Seeing pictures of her the last couple of days, I’m reminded of footage taken from horror movies or concentration camps. It’s devastating and I’m again reminded that the rules of euthanasia are still far too strict.

Never let me go that way, I made my wife promise. Take me out back and shoot me.

If one of our animals were suffering like this, we’d have taken them in and said our goodbyes. We never would have willingly let it get to that level of suffering. It’s horrifying. That anyone in good conscience could think that allowing such suffering to continue…

Kindness sometimes means making incredibly difficult choices. It’s one I would willingly make for her if I could. No one deserves to die this hard, with this much suffering. Not if we can stop it.

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