Today is my mother's birthday.
My mother died 3 years ago, on August 24th, in a hospital room at the Appalachian Regional Hospital in Hazard, Kentucky. Hazard is the big city on those parts. She had been very sick for awhile, I had gone to see her then came back, and was planning to go again when I got a call from my brother on the evening of the 23rd. I left the next morning, but did not get there in time. I got a call on my cell as I was pulling into a gas station at Gate City, Virginia.
The older I get the more people die, and I think the concept of a "dignified" death is something people made up. My mother suffered, to the point that my father finally told everybody - meaning the doctors - to stop. She was old, and was very unlikely to recover no matter what they did, so he told them to stop. He didn't receive any argument from anybody, neither family nor doctors. Everybody knew. They moved her out of intensive care, managed the pain, and she died a day or so later.
I remember when I was little. We had 33 acres of prime (ahem) hill top property in Hindman, Kentucky. I'd run around barefoot (we always said barefooted), and I learned that if I just ran thru the yard the bees generally got out of the way. I was always a little afraid of the snakes, but they seemed to get out of the way too. I was invincible. But even at that early age I knew about death, though I didn't really understand it. I remember telling myself I had nothing to worry about, because only old people died and by the time I was old, someone would have found a cure for death. I was all of 5 years old.
The first part of my self delusion was shattered when a 1st cousin, and my best friend, drowned in Troublesome Creek when it was swollen with spring rains. I remember him as smart, inquisitive and curious, and he was younger than me. He was only 7 years old when he died. I was 8.
The second part of my self delusion went by the wayside a long time ago. People die. They die for all kinds of reasons, but mostly they just get sick and die. True, as a group, at least in the developed world, we tend to live somewhat longer than we used to, but we don't live forever. Or even that long, for that matter.
On my mother's last birthday she was in a hospital bed. She was conscious and aware, but had tubes helping her breathe and could not communicate. She had endured a couple of operations, she was in pain and she was extremely uncomfortable. When I left her for the last time, she didn't want me to go. Even though she couldn't speak, everybody knew why. Well I can't speak for anyone else, but I knew why.
So today is my mom's birthday, and I've been thinking about her off and on all day.