She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about two years ago. The doctor told her with aggressive chemotherapy she might have a year. About nine months into it the doctor said the treatment wasn’t working and he wanted to try something else that might give her a few extra months. Grace said “No thank you. I love my life, but I’m not afraid of death. I’m done.”
She called her best friend Lani, shared the news and said, “I’d like to have a party as soon as possible.” That was Monday. On Friday we had a roof-top party on a downtown building. I will never forget how beautiful Grace looked that night. She wore a long, white linen dress, a long chunky brown necklace and a wide-brimmed hat. Her husband wore a white panama hat. They looked like they were going on a cruise. Everyone brought food. We danced. We sang. We laughed, and each one of us had the opportunity to tell Grace how much we loved her and how sad we were that her life on this earth was ending.
Within a few weeks she was in Hospice care in her home. Friends took turns bringing food and sitting with her so her husband could sleep and get away from the house once in a while. Dying of cancer is not an easy exit, but with the help of Hospice and the people who loved her, it was a calm, peaceful and dignified death.
Those of us who knew Grace will always miss her, but our grieving process was a little less wrenching because were able to tell her face to face what we loved and admired about her before she died rather than talking about her to others after she was gone.
Death is not a choice. We all have to die. But when we know it’s coming, we can chose how we will face it. My hope for those of you who are caring for loved ones whose conditions are terminal is that you will push past your discomfort and have some open and honest discussions about what lies ahead.
Tomorrow I’ll write about how you might start those conversations. In the meantime, I’ll keep you in my heart and prayers.