Transcript of TEDxBellingham Presentation

It took Alan 9 ½ days to be Not Here By Choice. Once he started, he never looked back. He basically went to bed and stopped eating and drinking. He remained quiet and asked for very little. He never complained nor said he was hungry. We satisfied his thirst with frequent moist swabs and sprayed mists of water into his mouth until he was relieved. He had a good doctor and 24 hour caregivers who kept him physically comfortable. As long as he could, he continued to thank the people around him for the good care he was receiving. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

When Alan could no longer open his eyes or speak, I wanted to make sure he was physically comfortable and free of suffering. I got close to him at his bedside and said, “Alan, I am here with you. If you are comfortable, blink your eyes,” and with his eyelids still closed, he was able to move them. And while he was in that state, he was still able to move his lips and mouth his last words, “I love you.”

By the ninth day, Alan was in a deep coma with loud, rapid breathing. Our doctor said his heart was strong and estimated he would live one to three more days. His heart was still strong. But I felt Alan was really no longer with us. I wanted to help him release from his body. I wasn’t sure what to do. I stood at his bedside with him until I knew what to do. With a great deal of presence, I actively began to do Therapeutic Touch. This is a deep healing modality that I learned from nurses many years ago.

Then I began to talk to Alan. “Alan, I’m right here with you now. We’ve partnered together for 26 years and supported each other through everything. You’ve been very courageous and you’re holding on by just a couple of threads now. You can release yourself and let go now. You can be free. I’m going to be alright. You can let go now. I’m going to help usher you home. There’s nothing else that you have to do. I’m going to help midwife you home.

While I was talking to Alan, his breath quickly shifted from that loud, rapid breathing to a quiet, gentle breath. (Demonstrate). He took just a few more of those quiet, long breaths. His last breath was so quiet, I couldn’t even detect it. Instead of it taking 1 – 3 days, he left his body in 15 minutes.

Every step of the way, Alan made HIS choices. He chose not to have surgery. He chose to use naturopathic healing. He chose to be at his own funeral. He chose not to live in a dementia facility. And he chose not to live into the late stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. His final decision to be Not Here By Choice brought him great Peace.

What will you do if you are faced with a dreadful disease? You have legal rights and choices. Alan’s choices may be different from the ones you will make, but my wish for you is that you are empowered to participate in the planning of your own death so that you can have the kind of peace that my husband experienced.

I miss my husband very much. But I’m glad he didn’t have to suffer and live into the late stages of Alzheimer’s. My support of my husband through his process of dying peacefully and consciously was my biggest act of love.

(Pause)   Thank you very much.