Before today, I didn’t have an advanced directive stating my desires surrounding my end of life. Today I will ask my friends, T, and D, to witness my signature on the form G brought home.
“Are you okay?” asked the stranger.
I was not. I was a wreck.
“No,” I said, “My best friend just died. They took her off life support.”
“I’m so sorry,” said the woman as she held me in an embrace.
We’d reached the ground floor of the hospital and folks began to pour into the elevator. I looked up to thank the woman who’d so kindly reached out. She was gone.
That hug gave me enough strength to make the thirty minute drive home. I’d spent the day, from seven in the morning, to two o’clock in the afternoon, waiting for Barb to have the ventilator removed following a massive coronary, which had killed her at approximately eleven o’clock the previous night.
Barb was set to undergo a procedure on her heart. She died before the procedure could be done. She was sick. Without a doubt. When told, umpteen times, to quit smoking, she balked, basically, until it was too late. The damage was done.
Barb didn’t like to be told what to do. By anyone. Not even the doctors. Fiercely independent, she ran her own show. Till the end. So she presumed. She remembered signing ‘something’ telling not to keep her alive by machine. Unfortunately, there was no copy of the advanced directive on her chart. No DNR. So, I had all sorts of visions charging through my mind of nurses and doctors racing around, beating on her chest. Inserting this here and that there. It sickened me. It saddens me.
We always talked about not wanting to be kept alive by machines amongst ourselves. When Barb was dying, the nurse told me she was asked if she wanted to be put on the ventilator. Barb said Yes. She meant No.
By the time I’d gotten to the hospital, I knew that my favorite friend in the world was gone. One look and I knew. So, at two o’clock, when a copy of Barb’s advance directive was finally faxed over from her lawyer’s office, I kissed Barb’s lips, her eyelids and hand. And I left. To grieve heavily. Uncontrollably at times. Still.
I am certain that I’ve encountered other angels in my waking life and greet even more. The others are with me. Ones I don’t necessarily see but I know and feel them there. And the ones that surround Barb as she exclaims with glee, Oh, Jan, It’s so beau-T-ful here! Because that’s how she’d describe Heaven. With extra emphasis on the T.