I’m not really dying. Or, at least, I have no real reason to believe it. But, since I was a teenager, I’ve had this irrational belief that I wouldn’t make it to my 41st birthday. I just turned 39 years old. You do the math! So, what would you do if you were going to be dead in just 2 years??
When I was 16 years old, I got a phone call from my step father while I was out at a friend’s birthday party. He said he was borrowing my car, which I left parked at home, to take my mother to the emergency room half an hour away. My mom had been sick off & on for a while, so I thought nothing of it, really. I was told to have fun at the party & I would be filled in when I got home or in the morning.
Little did I know, it would be exactly nine months from that day when my mother would pass away.
That emergency room visit turned into an extended hospital stay. Mom’s excessive fatigue, weird rashes, sore throats, & other odd symptoms wound up being acute myelogenous leukemia. It was the most aggressive form of leukemia there was.
Mom had four younger brothers & the oldest of those four (who was only 11 months younger than her!) wound up being a perfect bone marrow match. So, she even had a successful bone marrow transplant. But, after her transplant, mom developed a non-viral form of pneumonia (pneumonitis) & she got hooked up to a venthilator. She never came off it.
The oxygen level had to be turned up repeatedly. When it reached 100%, one of mom’s doctors called my sister, my grandmother, & me into a private room. He explained that lungs aren’t designed to withstand 100% oxygen being pumped into them. We breath a much lower percentage at a time, naturally.
So, the dilemma was that if he turned the oxygen down, mom’s vital organs wouldn’t receive enough oxygen to function.
But, if he kept it at 100%, mom’s lungs would deteriorate. Either way, her time with us was extremely limited. It was a Catch 22.
The doctor asked us what we wanted to do.
My grandmother was in tears. Heck! We all were in tears! What an impossible decision, right?
But, I knew. I had sat quietly on my mother’s bed back at home when she & my grandmother were talking about all the “What Ifs” that could occur with mom’s treatment plan. I was there to hear my mother say that she didn’t want to be a vegetable for any length of time. She didn’t want us kids to always see her hooked up to tubes & wires.
Mom said, with her own mouth, before her treatments started taking her from us, that we should pull the plug if there was no chance of her being HER if some miracle happened & she did survive if she ever got to that point.
We were at that point.
If some miracle happened & mom survived too much oxygen to her lungs or not enough to her vital organs, she would have severe damage. She wouldn’t be herself any more — if she ever got off the venthilator at all.
If she could speak for herself, she would say to pull the damn plug already!
So, I spoke up in that room with the doctor & my sister & my grandmother. I said what I knew Mom would want to be said.
I didn’t want to. I was only 17 at the time. But, I heard my mother’s voice in my head. It was that voice from just months earlier sitting on her bed at home…
“It’s time to pull the plug.”
So, that’s what we did. January 11, 1999. I was at my mother’s feet, feeling her pulse slowly decrease until it stopped completely. The venthilator was turned down slowly until it was off completely.
And, mom was gone.
My mother passed away at the age of 40.
She would have turned 41 on her next birthday, less than one month away on February 5, 1999. She did not see her 41st birthday.
I have been compared to my mother a lot.
I have a lot of her personality. I speak a bit like her & have many of her mannerisms.
Somehow, in my brain, this has always meant to me that I’d be damn lucky to make it past my 41st birthday too.
Call me crazy. Call me irrational. Call me whatever you want.
But, this has been in my head for over two decades now!
Grandma passing away last year while battling small-cell lung cancer has only added to this. What will be MY demise??
So, as my 39th birthday approaches, this is on my mind.
What if I have I’m going to be dead in just 2 years?
If this whole notion does prove to be true, what should I do with my life if I’m going to be dead in just 2 years? What do I still want to accomplish or experience in my time on this earth?
What do I want my kids to know about their mother? What do I want my husband to know about me & the things I do for us on the day-to-day?
What do I want these last two years to look like when I am slipping away on that final day?
What do I want these last two years to look like when my loved ones think back to remember me?
What needs to change in my life so I have no regrets when I am on my deathbed?
Those are the questions… What would YOU do if you knew you’d be dead in just 2 years??