’Till death do us part

By Nancy Black

My oldest brother Randy had a massive stroke while sitting in his barber’s chair on a Tuesday morning. The doctors said there was a 97 percent mortality rate for his type of stroke. That meant he had a three percent chance of surviving. That was three years ago this month.

My brother is now in the final, hospice state, of his medical nightmare. And it hasn’t just been his nightmare. His wife and daughter’s lives, and those of his friends and family, were affected that horrible Tuesday.

What affected us the most, besides the shock and heartbreak, was that my brother, the world traveler who used to speak six languages, didn’t plan ahead in case he had this type of medical emergency. He didn’t have a medical directive, he didn’t have a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate order) on file with his doctor’s office, and he had not spoken to anyone in the family about his wishes should he become absolutely debilitated from a massive stroke or other terrible tragedy.

I, on the other hand, have. Or I should write “had.” I had given my lawyer and family instructions on what to do if such a situation were to happen to me. I said: “Save me! As long as I can hear my children laughing, I won’t mind lying in a never-ending, bed-ridden state!” 

That is what I used to say. 

Not anymore. After watching my once vibrant and way too talkative big brother waste away to nothing but a shell of the man he used to be, I realized that I don’t want to go out that way. I also realized this is a really touchy subject.

I’m not saying I don’t want every effort made in keeping me alive. I do! But there really needs to be someone else in charge when enough is enough. That’s where a medical directive comes in handy. And while you’re at it? Why not start writing your own obituary? 

Photo of President Jimmy Carter by Randy Black

My brother attended Texas Tech University, but I have no idea in what year or what his major was. He was a golf pro with Lee Trevino, a Katy Award winning photographer for The Dallas Times Herald and an acclaimed novelist. I’m hoping my other siblings will help fill in the blanks when the sad time comes to run an In Memoriam in my own newspaper for my own brother. He loved to write, though, and would have written a much better ode to his life than we could.

Do your family — and yourself — a favor, and plan ahead for the end of your life. Live life to the fullest, now, of course. Absolutely! But we never know when it will end, or at least end as we know it, as in the case of a massive stroke. So, we should at least make sure that when we leave this life, we don’t leave chaos and confusion behind for those we love.