Courtesy of TheNewYorkTimes.com | By Monona Yin | Photo by Loris Guzzetta | Orignally Published 10.23.2018 | Posted 11.11.2018
We had started down the path of honoring our mother’s wish to have a good death until a hospice nurse figured out that she wasn’t really dying.
Three years ago, my family and I had the experience of going through a full “dress rehearsal” for my mother’s demise. At 83, she had become alarmingly weak from stage IV lymphoma and atrial fibrillation, and asked me and my brother to come home to Delaware for her next oncologist visit.
Mom had already undergone chemotherapy and cardioversion, so we knew there were few treatment options left. Still, we were utterly unprepared when the doctor said, “She probably has less than six months,” and recommended that she begin hospice care.
Widowed at just 37 with two small children, Mom has trained herself to face challenges without flinching. She is that rare Chinese elder who isn’t superstitious about mentioning or planning for her own death.
True to form, when we got home from the oncologist’s office, Mom sat us both down at the kitchen table to discuss her end-of-life wishes. She had witnessed two horrible lingering deaths up close — her mother’s and a longtime friend’s. What she feared most was pointless suffering and the loss of control over her own life. She wanted us to understand that, if she had little hope of recovery, she’d rather go quickly than fall apart slowly and painfully.