I find Dr. Kevorkian’s life interesting and the specific ending to his life compelling.  Intriguing.  Mysterious.

I mean, after his staunch support of assisted suicide over the years, I half expected him to go out with a bang – a final thumbing of the nose to the government system he found so overbearing or a final message to the world regarding his well-known topic.  But peacefully in bed listening to his favorite music??  Hmmm… curious.

I’m aware that I am probably even more drawn to his story now because of my personal experience of watching someone die in bed listening to their favorite music.   (For the record, that still seems to me a pretty good way to go! – minus all the suffering that may come beforehand.)  However, I also personally know Geoffrey Fieger and consulted him while my dad was suffering.  And in my dad’s final week, my mother and I left our bedside vigil in order to attend the by-invitation Detroit premiere of the HBO film, “You Don’t Know Jack” – a very interesting dichotomy.

However, I think Dr. Jack’s personal ending purely demonstrates his overall mission – he wasn’t ever trying to avoid life by choosing death.  Rather, he was trying to help dying people avoid suffering and loss of dignity.  People who knew they were going to slowly die from an incurable disease.  People who were already experiencing increased pain and suffering every day.  THAT’s where Dr. Jack gets me every time.  I connect with that concept.  Always have.  Even before my experience with Alzheimer’s.

But, let’s face it, Dr. Kevorkian himself wasn’t suffering in the end – he was simply dying.  He was dying of natural causes and he chose to continue on that route.  I think that’s cool.  I think it’s important for him to have made that choice for himself.  Not the specific choice of choosing a natural death necessarily – but rather that he probably considered all of his options… and then he powerfully chose his exit strategy.  I think there’s dignity in being able to choose how you die.

(NOTE: I clearly understand that he went to jail for actively administering a lethal dosage to someone which made it “active voluntary euthanasia” vs. his previous acts of “physician-assisted suicide” where he provided the dosage to someone else to administer to themselves. Click these links for an explanation of the difference and the variances of the law.)

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I’ve plunged back into the working world as of 3 days ago and find myself moving along at a fairly decent clip, all considered.

Prior to that, I was like a wounded animal limping through the haze.  Those first few weeks after losing Daddy-O were foggy, painful and just plain surreal.  It’s weird when your world instantly loses one of its constant beacons; you lose your way and have to numbly find your way back to reality – albeit a new, revised reality.  And then you have to get used to that new place.

Nine days after the funeral, during this hazy process, my roommate and I escaped to Vegas for a quick getaway.  Quite frankly, looking forward to that trip actually helped me get through the funeral proceedings in the first place.  Then, once in Vegas, I distinctly felt myself disconnect from the regular drama of my life, and I was thankful for the tangible, much welcomed and much deserved break.  I figured I would get back to mourning a few days later once I touched back down in Detroit.

Surprisingly, though, back in Detroit, I discovered that I had healed a lot between Vegas and home.  Maybe it was the onslaught of neon lights and casino noise or the cool drinks and cloudless skies or simply the fact that I was nowhere near home and so no one knew I was mourning.  Whatever it was, I was able to act normal and literally be carefree for the first time in years!  It was an amazing sensation.

When I returned home to Detroit I found myself shocked – and then saddened – when I realized I had actually somehow recovered beyond my expectations in that one short weekend.  I suppose that after 3 years of pre-mourning the loss of my dad, I was somehow, somewhere deep inside, more prepared to move on than I thought.

That’s not to say that I don’t miss him LIKE CRAZY and sometimes still cry when I think about him!  The difference I’m speaking of is that I can talk about him sometimes without crying – which, I believe, is quite an amazing feet.

When I consider that my family and I could have been dealing with my father having this horrible disease for another DECADE – like millions of families do! – it absolutely blows my mind.  I have NO idea how people survive years and decades of this heart-wrenching disease.  I suppose that’s exactly why 40-percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers die before their failing loved ones.  I mean, seriously, WHO can take all that??

What I have now is scattered feelings: I feel blessed to have been Frank’s daughter, I feel sad because I miss him, and I feel lucky to have been released from this madness.

I find myself listening to oldies music at every possible opportunity – in the shower, in the car, while working.  The music feels like my last tangible connection to him.  Like, if I just smile big enough… and sing loud enough… and think happy thoughts enough, maybe Daddy-O will shine down on me, smile, and dance back…

(NOTE: Frankly Speaking: Alzheimer’s subscribers didn’t receive an email alert upon my last blog entry a few days ago for some reason.  If interested in reading that entry, scroll down one entry on my website to read my dad’s amazing eulogy as delivered by my cousin, Karrie [McLean] Martin.)

Saturday was the Memory Walk and something serious happened that day.  My mom’s sister, my Aunt Kathy, was by our side at the Memory Walk and we had a great day.  But when she got home, she discovered that her husband had collapsed while she was out with us. 

Uncle Jack has now been at the hospital for four days and things don’t look good.  He has been in and out of the hospital a few times this summer but this time things appear much more dire.

So we’re in the midst of yet another family crisis… this time staring death straight in the eye.  I can’t help but wonder what this is doing to my dad’s already-existent thoughts on dying.  And what’s going through my mother’s mind and heart as she and Dad continue to visit their beloved brother-in-law in his hospital bed.  They know their day is coming.  They have to be going through an intolerable amount of emotional stress and personal anguish.  We all are in our own way.  This is a very poignant experience.