This I Believe

Rebecca - Maryville, Missouri
Entered on October 26, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: change

Change is Inevitable

The moment I gave the order to end my father’s life, my life changed irrevocably. He’d been ill for several years, his body suffering from Parkinson’s and congestive heart failure, but I’d lost him well before his body died.

So, I believe in change.

Humorists often point to death and taxes as the only real equalizers in life. Change also levels the human playing field. Thirty-five years ago my father was a man in his prime, running for state office, owner of a successful business, father of two pre-teens. Five years later, he was a dirt-poor minister and father to two teens and a baby.

Twenty-five years later, he was sliding swiftly into the abyss of Alzheimer’s. He no longer remembered that darling baby girl. In fact, he looked right through me.

One hot, windy September night, I tell the doctor to end my father’s life.

Because, I believe in change.

After breaking a hip sent him into respiratory distress once, I know that his life will be a long series of pain and confusion. In my grandmother’s long decline, I witnessed the catatonic state that is his certain future. So, when he entered respiratory distress, I stated firmly, “Do not resuscitate.”

In that one moment, I chose to end the life of the most important person in my life.

And it changed me.

For one, I cry so easily now. Every sad song or movie sparks the tear ducts. Even now just thinking about that night I’m sobbing.

However, I changed in other, more profound and less obvious ways. I’m more confident—after all, no decision is too difficult to make once the decision to cease life has been surmounted. I’m also more frantic. Knowing how quickly life ends, I don’t want to waste a moment, don’t want to miss one opportunity. As a high school English teacher, I’m active outside my school and community because tomorrow or even next year, this may all be different. I may not be able—I may not be here.

Conversely, I’m also calmer. Change can mean an ending or a beautiful beginning or just a different path than one intended to take. Looking out my front window, I watch the oak leaves pale into yellow and gradually fall from the tree. Sometime—hopefully not soon—I’ll pale too, lose my fragile grip on my branch, and flutter through space and time. And that’s okay.

Because I believe in change.