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Do We Choose?

by Linda J. Austin

Saturday I got on an airplane. I thought about bombs, terrorists, a wing falling off, bad weather. I remembered that for all things there is a season; things happen for a reason; some answers are not ours to know. I never once thought of going home, canceling the trip. It doesn't matter if we eat right, exercise, take vitamins, drink lots of water, say our prayers - we are all going to die. But, do we choose when? And is this "when" a specific date, place, time, or is it "when" everything is crossed off my "before I can die checklist"?

In his book, The Soul's Code, psychologist James Hillman suggests that before birth our guardian angel decides the parents we will be born to, and our purpose on earth. In the birth process we forget all the plans but our guardian angel remembers. (I haven't finished reading the book so I don't know if the blueprint for life includes the specifics of death.)

Is death part of the plan? Are we given X number of days to accomplish our plan - or do we remain on earth only until our work is done? Does the last part of this question explain why some people die young?

I often wonder if Mother Teresa chose to die on September 5, 1997, days after Princess Diana died. In life Mother Teresa was humble and deflected attention away from herself. In the media frenzy coverage of Princess Diana's death, did Mother Teresa choose to depart unnoticed, the day before Princess Diana's funeral?

If you had a choice, how would you choose to die? Where would death take place? Who would be with you?

Ellie (a patient) was adamant, she wanted me with her when she died. She told her husband, her daughter and the social worker. My mother never said what she wanted but I was there cradling her as green mucous trickled past her lips. In her last letter to me mother wrote, "Linda I always depended on you to know just what I wanted and how I wanted it done." Connections, communications, mysteries - words spoken, words unspoken. Caregivers listen with their eyes, speak through touch. What have you heard today? What have you said?


Linda J. Austin writes from experience as a nursing assistance and a family caregiver. "When I was assigned my first hospice case, I found my place in life." Retired from several careers, Linda is studying creative art therapy.