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Long Night’s Journey Into Day

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Again I find myself in Southern California visiting my mother in a skilled nursing facility. Again I am forced to confront the question of "is a long, long life of value when there is nothing left to enjoy?" It has been two years since having to move her here; she is now legally (and entirely) blind, deaf in one ear and has about 10% hearing in the other.

I've spent 5 of the 7 days here visiting her, so far. I would say it is her lifelong stubborn will that keeps her alive. Her mind is relatively clear; her concept of time is skewed. She often complains they fail to bring her her evening meal but when I continue questioning her, I often find that she has, indeed, had that meal.

Yesterday she had a lot of questions about death and convinced me that she's more than ready to end the struggle. It's been over a year since she has been able to walk, even with a walker. Her walking consists of 2 steps from the wheelchair, a turn, and into bed. Very few people in her facility speak English. Both her roommates speak only Spanish, narrowing her interaction with the world. Basically you have someone who spent her whole life socializing, gossiping and teaching knitting and crocheting classes. Now, there is a void.

During my week in the area, I toured another facility. I like it better and all the patients speak English. The downside: if I can get her in, there is an eight-month waiting list. At this age, does she have eight months?

I observed the patients in this facility; while they seemed well taken care of, it was the same existence. We are living much longer, thanks to modern medicine. I ponder the question: is this a good thing and why? The medical community along with government and religion have banded together to keep us alive. Our founder, Woody Baldwin, was condemned to this life until he passed. He found many of the other patients horribly homophobic, so for us this compounds the issue. He was forced to live his last day back inside the closet. When CBS News contacted me wanting to do an interview with both of us, Woody refused because it would 'out' him. This compounds the problem of living a long life.

Along with myself, I urge all of you to work at keeping yourselves healthy, alive, and immersed in life as long as you possibly can. I've taken to wearing 'germ masks' and taking megadoses of vitamins when I fly. Stay well and stay at home as long as you can and be happy. Being part of and immersed in Prime Timers is a very big step in that direction.

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