Monday, January 14, 2008

The Woman from Zimbabwe


For more than two years the woman from Zimbabwe has been confined to her small, ninth floor room in the local charity hospital without any where else to go.


The morning paper said that she was involved in a car accident that left her alive, but unable to move anything other than a finger. Slowly, painfully she points at a letter board to spell out what she wants to say.

Though her home is in Zimbabwe, she was in the states visiting her two grown children when she was involved in a terrible car accident.

Her current hospital bill exceeds a million dollars, but she doesn’t have insurance to cover the cost of returning to Zimbabwe and her round-the-clock care is more intense and complicated than either of her children can manage, so she is confined to her single, small, sterile hospital room.

Interviewed for the article, her children described the way their mother talks about wishing she were dead. She hates her confinement, the endless monotony her life has become and feeling like a burden to others.

Her son lamented how hard it was to have a parent who, more than anything, wants to die.

I imagined this woman, this mother, from Zimbabwe lying there with an itch on her face. How long would it take to spell out a request for someone to scratch it? How maddening!

I thought about her wish to be dead.

I imagined what it might be like to be so completely reliant on others all day, every day.

I thought about her children’s lives since the accident, forever changed by the new routine of hospital room visits, medical administration, worry, guilt …

For the first time since my grandmother’s death I understood its gift.

My grandmother suffered through a violent car accident too, but she passed away quickly and, most likely, painlessly.

She was lucky in her death.

I’ve known this all along, but somehow the details from the story in the paper made it more real.

I understood what it truly would have meant for my grandmother to survive her car accident.

My granny would have hated living the way the woman from Zimbabwe is forced to live.

In a very strange way, I felt glad for my granny.

I felt grateful that she didn’t suffer and that she went quickly.

Then I stopped and smiled.

Gladness and gratitude?

Those are new, eh?

Maybe I’m making a little progress with this whole grief thing.


65 comments:

Mama Drama Jenny, the Bloggess said...

It's a good start, my friend.

Don Mills Diva said...

It IS a good start. My grandmotehr was 93 when she died. She travelled the world right into her 90s and she died less than 3 weeks after saying she didn't feel good one day. It was devastating but in its way it was a blessing that it was so quick.

Lisa Milton said...

It's all on the path, I imagine.

furiousBall said...

Yep, my grandmother on my mother's side was deep in the throes of dementia and suffering constantly. Her passing was a blessing from her grief. She was at peace finally.

You're doing good amiga.

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

I am glad for you...sounds like a little glimmer of light on a long, difficult path.

Paige said...

Everyone has to start somewhere, you know. Baby steps, P.

Dory said...

Oh, look at you all growing up and stuff! *chuckling*

I just blogged about my stepgrampa... he may last another week or so, and I'm rooting for him to go "home" anytime he feels ready.

Dory

Catizhere said...

Hugs Jess.

That is one of my many prayers.
To go quickly.

Jenifer said...

Yes. Yes. Yes. My Dad died at 48 from a swift heart attack. It was and is tragic and horrible and unfair. We have some friends though whose cousin who is in his early 40's is dying of colon cancer. He has a wife and two young kids and has basically tried all treatments here and in the US and there is nothing more they can do.

I cannot imagine how he goes about his days, what he thinks about. I don't know him well, but it is haunting me.

I am thankful my Dad did not suffer this kind of death. There is no good death, but suffering like this is just unimaginable to me.

I think you are on the path to healing and probably have been for awhile, it is your compassion that reminded you.

Beck said...

Oh, I know. I know. My grandfather was diagnosed with a brain tumour and swiftly died and even then we knew this quick death was a gift. But it was still so hard. And we are lonely, still, without him.

Hol&J said...

Your words and thoughts helped me today. Thank you.

My grandfather died very suddenly in 2005. You helped me realize that I should be thankful he's not suffering or lonely anymore.

I still struggle with the details... my dad (his son) was the one who had to go in his house and find him. That still breaks my heart. We miss him terribly, but each day it gets a little better.

Aliki2006 said...

Oh you are, J.--that's real progress. I can't imagine what it would be like to suffer as she is suffering.

cce said...

So much death in the air today...just over from Slouching Mom who writes of hospitals and illness today too.
I agree with you, there's a certain dignity in a rapid denouement. When I have to go, I hope it's a quick sprint past the great divide.

Circus Kelli said...

Sounds to me like you're definitely making some progres. Good job, darlin!

liv said...

thanks for the story, friend. you are doing well in the process. (hugs)

Magpie said...

I think that the quick way is nearly always the best way, if it has to be.

Better days are ahead for you.

Kyla said...

That is progress and that is a very good thing.

Family Adventure said...

Poor, poor Zimbabwean lady...how awful for her and her family.

But you are doing well. You are on your way...

Heidi

Tracey said...

Heading in the right direction. But please expect road blocks. If you anticipate them, you'll be able to steer around, or at least, through them. My grandmothers died the same week in 2005. And I still cry and get angry.

Katie said...

I agree, a good start indeed. If you're interested and live near an independent movie theater, the film "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is a movie about a very similar situation. It's difficult to feel anything but thankful for both life, and swift, merciful passings after watching the film.

I know that seems odd, but as someone who lost two family members very rapidly and unexpectedly, it really opened my eyes to how much more pain and suffering could've and almost certainly would've experienced.

nobaddays said...

Thanks for this. Perspective for me :-)

And as an aside, my 91 year old granny has suffered with chronic and very painful arthritis for much of her life. These past few years have been so much more painful -- hard both for her and my mom who she lives with.

Slackermommy said...

Little by little your grief lessens with each of these revelations.

QT said...

Good for you Jess ~ it is a slow process, but you are on the path.

~hugs~

Avery Gray said...

Day by day. Hope it gets a little easier as time passes. You're in my thoughts, my friend. :o)

Anonymous said...

My mother died suddenly after an evening out, and died instantly on her way to her bedroom, taking off her earrings. One year and one month later, the hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Center, and though I was still grieving, I remember thinking,"Thank God she didn't live to see this--it would have killed her." I suddenly realized how lucky she was to have gone so quickly, while she still had all her faculties, and still had a joyous social life. She always said, "When I'm done, I'll go--just into the next room, and I'll wait for you there." I still miss her, but I am no longer sad. You are well on your way to that realization, too. As always, I mentally support you in all that you face in life.
Sayre's Mom

Above Average Joe said...

Time and positive thinking. To me, right now, thats what helps. Hopefully it will help you too.

Jen M. said...

It's an excellent place to be in. Good for you.

we_be_toys said...

I'm glad to hear you talking about it - I know it can be hard. It took me a year to really come to terms with my grandmother's death, and not because she was someone I really missed.
Closure can be a bitch sometimes.

Bob said...

I'm glad you're finding peace. My wife's mother was, well - not exactly in a vegetative state, but damned near it for almost a year before she passed away. She couldn't communicate with us, so I don't know how she felt about her condition or even how aware she was of it. I can't help, though, feeling that she was ready to go and felt released from her virtual non-existence. Or maybe that was how I felt.

BOSSY said...

Patience, moonflower. Patience. Allow the grief, all the stages.

dawn224 said...

right on Jess.

Mel said...

I agree with everybody else - gratitude is a great start. :)
(((You)))

Sarcastic Mom (aka Lotus) said...

So glad that story made it into the paper that made it into your hands this morning.

Life's little byandby's are quite interesting, aren't they?

mamatulip said...

A good start, indeed.

Where there is darkness, there is also light.

Laura said...

what a powerful story. My grandmother is suffering from alzhiemers and it is so sad to watch her leave us so slowly. She would never would have wanted to be living the life she is now.

thank you for sharing this story.

flutter said...

Oh look at your good work, love.

Sugarplum's Mom said...

I'm glad you were able to gain some peace. I would not want to be forced to live under such conditions either. It's one of the reasons I think euthanasia should be legal. If there are any circumstances where it would be just, that would be it.

Damselfly said...

And that right there is a blessing. :)

Julie Pippert said...

It's a step forward, and from an intriguing experience no less. I'm glad for you.

The Expatriate Chef said...

Best to you. I struggled a lot after my dad's head injury if this path (long recovery post-coma, some permanent damage) was the way he would have chosen. Eventually, you make peace with unexpected things, I am just sorry that this all happened for you.

Lotta said...

I think about that often with Kate lately. Last night I wondered if I was awful because I wished she would die sooner than later. I just know how much pain she's in for and I don't want her to endure it.

Omaha Mama said...

I'm glad that you've made a step towards healing. And I'll leave you with a totally inappropriate comment that my father always makes when someone elderly dies quickly (I've heard him say it a few times, most recently when my hubby lost his grandfather, who died at the age of 90 - having suffered a stroke on the DANCE FLOOR.), he always says, "Lucky Bastard."

You will miss her always, but would not wish for her here in that state. Not ever.

KTS said...

oooh, i'm glad this story made its way to you to help your healing process.

crankybee said...

I cried with relief when my Grandmother died. I miss her every day, but to see a 5ft tall, 6 stone woman trying to punch and kick a male nurse because she was scared of him broke my heart. She had never had to physically defend herself in her life, and to see her try to do so aged 84 broke my heart. Dementia took her from us, and as it took over, she was all too aware of what was happening. When she finally died, I asked God to welcome her as best as a lapsed Catholic could, and was grateful I ever had her in my life.

mothergoosemouse said...

It's always painful. We take comfort where we can.

All Things BD said...

My father died after a 6 month battle with cancer that went to his brain. After an agonizing end at which I was present, the first and strongest thing I felt was relief.

Obviously this was followed by immense grief, but getting through the immediate aftermath was somehow doable knowing he was no longer suffering. His pain became a strange blessing for me in the end.

I think your journey through grief and healing is progressing just fine.

mimikatemom said...

No right or wrong way to grieve.

There will always be hurt; but I hear peacefulness in your voice, where there was anger.

Thoughts are with you, friend.

Cathy said...

How awful for that poor woman and her family. You're right, passing quickly is infinitely better.

You are forging on.

carrie said...

Yes, you are.

I would feel the same way.

Mad Hatter said...

Oh Jess. What a devastating story.

Geologychick said...

******HUGS******

Joeprah said...

Its funny (not haha, but the ironic kind), that my grandma wanted to see our latest child when she was in hospice. She was put in hospice shortly before we delivered and time was so short that I didn't have time to see until a couple weeks later. My mom told me how anxious my grandmother was to see our daughter. She must have held on to see her because she died shortly afterwards. As my daughter has grown and is now 2 I see my grandmother's spirit in her. My wife doesn't see it as much as I do, but recently at my wife's parents house at the holidays we saw her grandma. She had met and became friends with my grandma and although she has no memory and is generally not 'with it' she remarked to me how our third daughter reminded her of my grandma.

When my grandma died she willed her nicest ring to our youngest daughter. She was a saint.

Kelley said...

I know that feeling. Whilst I shed a tear, a real tear, reading about this woman it made me feel better.

Horrific as that may be.

This poor womans situation made me feel better about my life.

Talk about timing. Life has a way of doing that for you and for me. Tonight I am sitting here having a pity party for one because of the horrific day I have had with my boy and I realise how much worse it could be.....

canarygirl said...

(hugs) Jessica. It's a long process that we never really get over, but it does get better with time.

Shannon said...

I'm crying in my coffee here.

Granny's are special people. I still miss my Southern granny after 18 yrs.

I remember turning that corner and feeling a little more at peace.

Jamie said...

Let it find you, don't rush it. Much love to you....

Chanda (aka Bea) said...

Baby steps down the path of mourning, it's not an easy process but you're so introspective I can't help but believe you will come out on the othe side with a greater understanding of yourself and the love you had for your grandmother - Chocolate doesn't hurt either!

NotSoSage said...

You have a beautiful mind, my dear Joy. It's an honour to watch you taking those steps.

xox

Aimee Greeblemonkey said...

Yup, sweetie, you are.

Jennifer said...

Little steps to peace. And being open to it, as you are, is the best start.

Ann M. said...

Thinking the way you are now is a huge step in finding the peace you want. Good for you.

Loralee Choate said...

After I lost my son I "Fine" for a year and then completely went to total pieces.

One day I blurted out in therapy that I was glad that Matthew passed away from SIDS.

It was horrible moment for me for a minute. My therapist understood.

It's just that I didn't have to watch Matthew suffer. He wasn't kidnapped and murdered. He did linger in agony for months or years from a disease.

If it HAD TO HAPPEN, SIDS is one of the most peaceful ways to go that there is.

While it took me awhile to grapple with that though, it was a clear sign that I was beginning to heal. Even just a little.

You will have more and more of them as you go along.

HUG.

Jenn said...

I'm so glad to hear that.

So very glad.

Claire B. said...

Good for you. One step up the ladder.

Holly said...

My mom took almost five years to die from cancer. A car crash instead would have been a blessing. REALLY!

Thanks for being open about your grief. I am certain it had helped others as well as your self.