a friend said. She had phoned me yesterday afternoon to say her husband had died that morning.
His death was expected - but not so quickly. He had Motor Neuron Disease and it was progressing rapidly. He didn't want to live.
Our friend has been calling in each Wednesday afternoon for a cup of tea after teaching a knitting class. She has been concerned for the Senior Cat and we have been concerned for her and for her husband. We have have been following the progress of his illness, letting her talk when she needed to talk and trying to be there when she needed to talk.
I didn't mind the time it took in the least. I'd do it all over again. She needed someone because, however calm she sounded, living with something like this is an enormous strain on everyone concerned. Perhaps I have too much imagination but I was anxious for both of them. He was spending a good deal of his day staring into space. He was depressed - and who would not be depressed? He knew what the prognosis was and that nothing could change it. Waiting to die like that, knowing you are simply going to get worse and worse must be terrifying.
Last week he told the doctor he did not want to go on taking the only drug available. All it does is slow the progress of the disease - and prolong the agony if you don't want to go on living. He didn't want to go on living.
He could still move around. He could still speak, although only in a whisper. He could read, play chess and do a few more simple things. In the normal way of things he might have lived longer but perhaps he had made up his mind to go. He kept telling his wife, "Don't bother..." to do this and that and something else. He didn't want to bother his son or his brother. He didn't want them to visit. He didn't want to do anything.
They had just started palliative care for him at home and perhaps that was it. Perhaps the growing indignity of dependency was too great to bear.
Several years ago a friend of mine who uses a wheelchair fell out of it and broke both arms. It meant weeks in hospital and rehabilitation simply because she could not do anything for herself - when she is used to doing many things for herself. It was hard but she knew there would be an end to it. She bore it with suppressed fury at herself and a resigned smile for her visitors. On one occasion though she actually said to me, "This terrifies me. How did J.... cope with everyone doing everything for him all the time?" J... was a friend who was physically dependent on others for everything - and
he had a brilliant mind.
For my friend's husband though there would not be an end to it - except in death. I wonder therefore when she found him lying across the bed rather than along it he had not chosen to go.
When she spoke to me she sounded upset but also calm. It was, she said, the way he wanted to go - now, and quietly in his sleep.
I am glad for him - and sad for her.