My late dear mother was a victim of diabetes. It cost her two amputations in her legs. The pain and suffering were decades in formation and the pain was immense. When the time came for her to announce a new amputation which was certain to be fatal, it caused quite a stir within my family. After arguing and crying, I asked my mother why she was willing to play this high-stakes game – the chance of death caused by such a surgery. What she replied seems like it was yesterday: “I am tired of pain. I want the pain to go even if it costs my life – I am ready to die.”
I cried like a baby and was even in more shock that my father went along with it after 60-plus years of marital bliss. He loved her so but was willing to let her go if it meant so much to her. I think of Christine Brown Alford every day of my life. What is most haunting is that such activity is beginning to skyrocket in our communities.
It first started happening on my mother’s side of the family. It seems that they were selecting elders who were suffering to make flights to Los Angeles. It was there that several family members had connected with the upper management medical fields in greater L.A. They would transfer a grandparent, aunt or other loved ones to check into a west coast facility for the sake of a surgery that would end in their life. At that point, they would provide funeral arrangements and go through the sorrow. This stuff has become routine. To give up on living with pain and getting relatives to assist in your demise.
I remember the actions of my father that made it all clear. We were making a trip to our homestead in Louisiana. Prior to arriving, he had planned everything. All of his financial and medical papers were organized into two boxes for my brother and I to later see the plans he made. What brought it all home was that the moment we entered Shreveport, Louisiana city limits. His plans would kick into gear. The moment I arrived I was notified that Dad went quickly into the local hospital for surgery the next day. We got to the hospital and things were already rolling. The doctors were preparing for the surgery and were not even familiar with us. All important papers had been signed by Dad and witnessed by various cooperating relatives.
That night he passed away and the pre-arranged funeral business was already underway.
The funeral happened in two days. We were in shock as we were hurried away back to Indiana. It was the exact same fashion as my mother had planned for her parting four years earlier.
Allow me to review another endeavor that happened within our family. The doctor came to my relatives’ home and stated: “I have obtained the proper doses of medication that would put her without further life within 30 minutes of injection. From there, the crematorium will arrive to carry her to the hospital for processing. By this evening the cremation will have been performed and the remains will be sent back to Indiana per your instructions.” Just like that. The deal was done and in coordination with a well-written obituary.
So, this goes on in repeated fashion within families throughout America. It is happening so fast that it is becoming hard to keep up with. People are finding themselves overwhelmed with all the deaths, funerals, and formal eulogies.
The World War II babies are in their senior years and are “dropping like flies.” Hospitals are raking in the business and the major portion of travel service is funeral related. It is a terrible reality. Somehow, we must come to terms with this and get through it all.
Is the medical industry going too far???? Who has the final right to “pull the plug”?
Mr. Alford is the Co-Founder, President/CEO, of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®.
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