Today was my Aunt Anne’s 87th birthday. I drove out to New Town Square with a bakery box that contained two cupcakes (one chocolate, one vanilla) and my camera in my bag. I called her before I headed out, because the day before when we had talked she had said to me, “make sure you call me in the morning, because I’m planning on dropping dead any day.”
She was still alive at 11 am and so I risked the trip. She happily ate the tuna fish sandwich I brought her from Wawa, packing half away for later as she always does. She proudly reported to me that she had been buying quarter pound containers of tuna salad from the deli counter at her local Acme, a manuver I had talked her through on my last visit.
After lunch and cupcakes, I asked if could possibly have one of the old wicker laundry baskets I had seen in her basement the last time I was there. She looked at me and said, “Honey, you can have whatever you want.” I ended up with two laundry baskets, a dusty little folding chair, one nice old picture frame, some random kitchen utensils and a dirty glass pitcher will several dead bugs inside. I piled my haul at the mouth of the garage door and we headed back upstairs to sit and talk a little while longer.
Just as I was getting ready to go, she sat down heavily in the chair that faces the tv and asked, “If you were me, how would you go about killing yourself?” I choked on my own saliva and lost use of my words for a moment. Seven consecutive thoughts dashed through my mind and I was torn between wanting to give her advice that could possibly bring her a pain free end and yelling at her that this was not something she could contemplate. She is deeply independent, and can’t bear the idea that a time might come when she won’t be able to drive or take care of herself. In the end I simply said that this wasn’t something I could talk with her about and she accepted that. But I can’t stop thinking about it.
I called my mom as I drove home, and told her what Aunt Anne had asked. We talked about the situation for a few minutes, until my mom interrupted, “It’s 11:11 in Portland, make a wish!” Normally I wish silently, still somehow believing that a wish shared with others won’t come true. Today, my hopes came pouring out and I couldn’t stay quiet, “I wish that Aunt Anne dies peacefully and easily in her sleep.”
May it be so.