Sunday, February 17, 2008

How to Stay Home

My self-employed grandfather planned for his retirement and eventual demise carefully. His oft-repeated goal was to stay in his house until the end. As a young child I remember visiting my great-grandfather in a “home”—I never asked why or how he ended up there—but it was not a good place. My grandfather didn’t want that.
He ended up staying in his house, with my gram and nurses caring for him, until a few weeks before his death, when he had to be moved into a convalescent hospital; the end-stage of his disease was just too devastating for home care. I was eight months pregnant at the time, and thought my grief might throw me into labor.
My gram died at home. The last four months she was totally housebound because of 24-hour oxygen. I wonder if all that money and planning was worth it. It didn’t make dying any easier. She was depressed often, and furious at her helplessness. But she died in her own bed.
I’m studying Ancient Egyptian art, how the pharaohs prepared for death by building huge monuments where their spirit would reside forever. These tombs resembled their homes. They led short lives on earth: beautiful Nefertiti was probably in her late 30s when she died, Tut was only 19.
4000 years later we’re still obsessed with the same basic problem.

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