Like many people, everything that’s been going on with Terri Schiavo and her family has got me thinking about what I might want should such a thing happen to me. And that it’s past time to draft up a living will.
I haven’t put much thought into putting together a proper will, with bequeathals and the like, because I have no children and no husband. While I happen to like the possessions that I do have, none of it is exactly priceless. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure my Ikea furniture (with a few non-Ikea pieces thrown in there) and archaic electronics aren’t going to skyrocket in value any time soon. Or at all. Most of my jewelry are costume pieces, the sort you’d find at Claires or Icing or on the clearance racks at Mervyns. One or two nice non-costume pieces, to be sure, but again, nothing that’s going to cause catfights. Frankly, most of my family and friends have much nicer stuff than I have. Not that I envy them for their possessions (except maybe their laptops – those make me slaver with jealousy). But the truth is nothing I own is all that valuable. So sitting down to make a last will and testament isn’t high on my list of things to do. Maybe I’ll videotape it. Have my loved ones all gathered together in my home, then tell them to get one of the shopping carts that I’ll have lined up at the front door and grab whatever they can, because it’s time for Supermarket Sweep! Except with my things instead of groceries. Sorry, no gigantic Butterball turkeys or spiral cut hams.
Or, you know, sell it all and split the money equally. That works too. Everyone will be happy with $10, right? Because considering the worth of my stuff, that’ll be what each person gets.
Not to say I’ve given no thought to my eventual death at the age of 120. (What? It could happen. Though if I do live that long, I would hope that I have a husband and kids and grandkids, etc. to whom I can leave all my worldly possessions. Or at least a hot Guatemalan houseboy – except straight.) I do have life insurance. Since the day I was eligible to sign up for it at my first job, back when I was an 18 year old discount department store cashier, I’ve had life insurance. It’s not a lot of money, but it should be enough to cover any funeral expenses, with any remainder to go to my mother.
(Good thing she doesn’t read this blog. I’d hate to start worrying about eating her cooking.)
I have expressed my wishes to family that all of my organs are up for grabs, if anyone, loved one or stranger, needs them. I don’t think I’ll have much use for them at that point. Oh, and I want to be cremated. I’m not sure where I want my final resting place to be, but if I can be used for fertilizer or compost in some open field somewhere, I’d be happy. That would definitely appeal to the la-la hippy lefty in me.
(Better yet, each of my loved ones should take a teaspoon of my ashes and wear it in a vial around the neck, to properly honor and mourn me. No? Really? Well, okay.)
So yeah, I’ve thought about it. And I’ve mentioned it to family in the past. I just haven’t written it down. That shall have to be done soon.
What I haven’t made clear are my wishes should I end up in a coma where I’m dependent on life support (which includes a feeding tube, in my opinion) or a persistent vegetative state, unable to have anything resembling a quality of life. That’s what I really need to have written up, notarized and filed.
I’ve heard some people say that they’d just leave it up to their family to decide. I couldn’t do that to mine. It would be torture for them to imagine what I may or may not have wanted, especially since they would be grieving. Better to get it down in black and white. Maybe with a bright blue wax seal in the corner. You know, to give a splash of color to what will probably be a dry-as-dirt legal document.
I’ve struggled with it over the years. I have thought about such an eventuality off and on since at least my teens. There is certainly a part of me that would want to hang on – that stubborn, optimistic, Taurean part of me that likes to dig her heels in, just in case medial science comes up with some miracle. I would hate to permanently check out of this world, this life before I’ve truly lived it.
To be in such a state for five, ten, fifteen years? Or more? Even if there is a sliver of consciousness trapped in a body that cannot move, cannot express itself, that is only a mass of nerve impulses twitching and incoherently moaning – for me that would not be life. That would be torture. I know that I would not want to exist like that. For it would merely be existing. It would certainly not be living. Not to me.
So perhaps I say instead, give it a year. If I am not being a financial burden on my family, let me stay in a machine-supported coma or vegetative state for one year. Just in case a medical miracle comes down the pike.
The exceptions: if all that’s left of my brain is a brain stem, let me go immediately. If keeping me alive for one year, or six months, or three month, is a financial burden on my family, let me go.
But if my family or my estate can afford to keep me alive, then after a year, if my doctors concur that there is no help for me, nor will there be, pull the plug. Lose the feeding tube. Let me die with dignity and peace.
(Of course, since I know I’m going to die at 120 years old whilst making sweet funky monkey love to my husband or hot Guatemalan houseboy, I don’t think it’ll ever come up…)