Saturday, December 5, 2009

Living Will

A living will is all right in theory. I don’t want you to intervene to save my life… in five years time, next year, even next month. But how about the day after tomorrow? I had always had a feeling that I would have wanted to retract, but then something happened.

A few weeks ago I had a laryngitic bug which went down into my chest. I don’t often get infections and when I do the M.S. plays up a treat. I say that it doesn’t like not taking centre stage, or to change the metaphor, I have only a limited number of troups and if I have to deploy them elsewhere that leaves my flank exposed. My flank was, metaphorically speaking, very exposed on a Saturday and Sunday when I couldn’t get the doctor. The M.S. went through the roof. Normally, I can move my right elbow up a little but then, I could not do that, I could not drive the wheelchair, I could not clean my own teeth. All that I could do, was turn my head to left or right against the headrest. I spent the evenings drifting in and out of a Brother Cadfael DVD.

The next morning, despite the fact that I had a hideous, phlegmy, chesty cough, the M.S. had returned to what it regards as normal. The doctor came in the evening, tested my lungs and found the infection had got down to my trachea but not as far as the lungs. Because of the living will, he asked me what we should do. The M.S. was picking up so I said to him that a carer from seven years back was on her way to New Zealand from England and I didn’t want to die without seeing her, that a dear friend had just had a tragic loss and I didn’t want her to have any more grief at that time, but he said I needed to consider me. But my will to live had been restored and I didn’t want not ever to see again the early evening light painting the upper branches of the walnut tree pink and gold or the white roses at evening coming towards me out of their arch as the greens of the garden merged into two dimensions; I wanted to finish my current book; I had many friends I wanted to connect with again. If he had asked me on the Sunday I would not have spared a thought for the walnut tree, roses, book, friends. Nothing mattered and I could have quite willingly slipped into death.

I find this astonishingly comforting. When I get pneumonia and I say when, not if, advisedly, given how the compression is restricting my breathing, then the M.S. will reduce me to such a state of nothingness that I will not mind the dying. I will not be dying with a great urge left towards life. I am immensely reassured.


  1. Diana, Just a short note; I am about to leave in a few min. to take Mom home after her stay here for a couple of weeks. Will have time to send a longer note when I return Tues. Have managed to read your journal even when I haven't had time to comment--sorry to hear that you had such a terrible time with the laryngeal infection! Hope that it has passed-
    love, diane

  2. Dear Diana
    I am commenting again because I lost the last one - if you find two similar comments from me then it must have gone anyway!
    Thank you for passing on that valuable lesson in living and dying. It's reassuring for all of us, as well as for yourself, that we will find it easy to choose to let go of all those things we currently believe we can't let go of. In the meantime, I sincerely hope that you are more comfortable today as there is still each 24 hours to get through.
    When you die, you will be sorely missed and I will be very very sad. But I will remember your struggle and tell myself that grief is also a struggle. You give me freedom to talk about such things. That is a valuable gift. How to approach death is a question for us all, so I'm commenting instead of emailing personally, but I mean it to be personal too.
    Deep peace of the running wave to you Diana, you are very much loved by me and you are a valuable mentor for living and dying.
    Lots of love

  3. I love the way you "grab the moment" and "carpe diem" as they fit the needs and wants of you and your body in that slice of time. You show your friends how it is possible to be ready when the time to die comes. Your honesty in talking about the living and dying is refreshing and makes us think about these things instead of pushing them away in the dark recess of our minds.... I hope that the Summer brings you lots of good days, Diana dear.
    Love, Diony