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A TGB READER STORY: The Fine Art of Dying

By wisewebwoman

Now it's Terry. Terry was knocked down in the middle of the night. Not by a car or anything like that. Knocked down by herself.

She ignored symptoms of all that was going wrong in her body, the pain in her abdomen. She'd chew Tylenol 3s like candy and we'd all given up on telling her to get to a doctor.

So she barely managed to call me on the phone at an ungodly hour screaming in pain and I followed the ambulance into the Health Sciences. Terry was one of those brilliant people who could work anywhere and did actuarial work from her home on the ocean.

Her clients were from all over the world. Funny thing, she hasn't met most of her clients; it was all done on the internet.

So like I was saying, Terry: there's never been anyone like her. She was riddled. First thing they did was take half her bowel away and give her a bag. Then they MRId her and Catscanned her and found more tumours. But Terry? She never let on to her clients she was in hospital. She carried on working with tubes and bags hanging off her. And saucy? You haven't seen the like.

She knew more than the doctors. And the funniest part? When a doctor or a nurse or a visiting specialist or students gathered around her bed she'd take notes in a thick journal she asked me to buy for her.

She'd write down all the numbers involving her condition: the date, the time, her sugars, her blood pressure, her white cell count, her urine output, her blood pressure, for Terry loved numbers.

And then, working backwards in the back of the journal, she'd make notes of the offhand remarks these medics tossed at each other so cruelly and casually, thinking she was asleep or distracted. Or deaf.

Did you see she had Botox on her forehead? And veneers on her teeth?

Oh, how the mighty have fallen, my mother knew her in school, an awful bitch, thought she was better than the rest of them.

Betty, if you give that one an inch she'll take a mile.

Complaining to the head nurse about her wet diaper! The like! Let her stew in it for another four hours!

Did you hear Lou-Ellen gave her an extra hard jab with the needles last night?

Leave her private room door open in spite of the stupid notice she's got pasted on it. Privacy she wants, ha. We’ll show Lady Muck who’s in charge!

I should sue their effin' asses, Terry said to me, elder abuse! And I go in to her just about every afternoon and she reads me all the latest pages from the back of her book in these funny voices.

And we'd laugh and laugh and laugh.

I don’t want my parents to know, she said one day out of the blue. The pressure is on to tell them but I can’t. They won’t be able to take it. Dad just turned 92 and Mom is 90 and it’s a long journey from Florida.

It’s your decision, Terry, I say softly.

You know something? She looks at me, her eyes steady. You’re the only one who supports me in this.

Another day she talked about the daughter she gave up for adoption when she was 18. Her parents never knew as she moved off island for several years.

I found her, she told me, You know me and hacking the internet, But she doesn’t want to see me.

She showed me photos on her iPhone. She was Terry’s double.

I told Terry I would take care of her, she would move in with me, I'd make sure she ate and walked and took as long as she wanted to recover.

But I knew.

She knew.

It came in the middle of the night; she was alone. I had seen her that afternoon and we had joked about designing a bejewelled colostomy bag for her. She would wear it with pride. Show it off. I would knit bag covers in psychedelic colours. We would start a cottage industry in fancy colostomy bags.

We laughed, but her laughs were weaker.

In her will, she left half her estate to the daughter who refused to see her. Her friends shared the rest.

But the real gift she left me was the smile I get every time I think of her.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.


What a story. She sounds like a person I would have enjoyed knowing!

This is a wonderful story. I think these Tuesday stories are great. I just love your blog.
Best wishes to you and stay well....Gail Mahoney

Wow. That was amazing and beautiful. We need more of this kind of reality. Kudos to wisewebwoman!

What a good and fine friend you were. Many stars for your crown.

Your story made me cry. Loved it

How lucky she was to have you in her life.

A wonderful story, and it made me angry at the hospital "caregivers." I want this to appear in a medical journal.

Solid gold!

What a sad wonderful story.

Wonderful story, wish I could write like that.

It's a sad, but wonderful story. I have been a contributor for years and hope to rejoin the ranks soon. The comments were always such an important part of the story. In fact, I printed them out along with my entries to save in a scrapbook for my children, just in case the archives disappear.

Wonderful story. I agree with Judy J.--Terry's notes should be published in a medical journal. Providing direct patient care is hard work and I respect nurses tremendously in general, but some of the remarks (and acts) of those "caring" for her were needlessly cruel--to a woman dying of cancer, for Pete's sake!

Total KO.

I loved it.

Wonderful story. Friends are such a blessing.

I can’t even fathom anyone in the medical field saying these things within the hearing of a patient. I seriously can’t.

Superb writing! Sad story filled with the humor we often use to weather the storm. I, too, find it beyond unprofessional, or worse -- whatever is thought of the patient -- that health care workers speak in that manner within the earshot of any patient, even if they think the person is in a coma -- unforgivable.

A sad, albeit wonderful story of friendship and loss. Thank you.

Terry sounds like someone I would have liked. Thanks for introducing her to us.

Marvelous story, beautifully written.

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