Do you have ideas about what it means to live well? Maybe you have a healthy lifestyle defined by exercise, enough rest, nutritious food, and the occasional vacation to recharge your batteries. Maybe your idea of living well is to indulge in favorite foods no matter what they are, to sit on the couch or in the recliner and watch sports on big screen TV. Maybe for you living well means to live in a beautiful home, surrounded by things you love, and to be your own boss.
My mother-in-law Betsy was one of the latter, living in a beautiful lakefront home, surrounded by things (and things and things) she loved, still telling everyone, “I am the boss of me.” She vowed never to go anywhere else, not to be stuck away in a cramped little room in a nursing home or an apartment in assisted living. She loved her porch with the lakefront view, her backyard meadow, the deer dropping fawns right in her front yard.
Me? I have an impolite adjective that goes in front of “deer” when they come in my yard and I sure don’t want my place to become their breeding ground. My husband and I went to spend what ended up being her last birthday with her in June where we all ate ice cream. The way I remember it is we had ice cream once or twice. The way she remembered it is that we gorged ourselves on ice cream. No matter. She was happy.
Betsy planned to live forever, or until the batteries in her pace maker ran out, whichever happened first. I’m afraid the batteries were still good when her heart, as my husband has been fond of saying since he read it somewhere, “Just plumb wore out.” I think she imagined dying quickly like my father in law had. He went out for a walk one day, came back and sat in his chair, and that was the end of his story. I think that’s the way she planned to go, too. A few days ago she reminded her son, “I’m the boss of me.” This whole business of her body not cooperating with her wishes was really a struggle. Still, she was at home in her bedroom with her beautiful view of the lake. Her older granddaughter had been visiting for several days and had just left. Her oldest son was by her side. She’d lived life on her terms, and she died a death as close to her terms as possible.
Dying well, just as living well, takes foresight. Can you imagine how you want your life to end? You’re writing the story with how you live. Give it a good plot and a great ending. Betsy, rest in peace, and eat lots of ice cream.