How to die

She’s 80 years old, and weighs less than her age.  Pound for pound?  The toughest woman on the face of the planet.

Edna was my admin assistant when i did my reluctant tour as branch manager a few years back.  We joked at the time about her diminutive size, but no one was ever going to deny her a request for documentation, signature or assistance.  Bottom line:  Shit got done.  We were at the top of the admin heap in a large research organization simply because of her knowledge and tenacity.

Her trials and tribulations would have destroyed most mortals.  Pregnant with her second child, her husband was struck by lightning and killed on a golf course during a Father’s Day outing, throwing her into the ranks of “single mother” before the days of affordable child care.  She continued to work, and her children never went without necessities, discipline or love.

Tough as nails, she also demonstrated solid home defense skills. A dumb bastard attempted to take advantage of her situation for his own benefit.  He entered her garage late one night, and attempted to break into the house.  She heard him.  “If you open that door, you’ll regret it”.  He did.  She shot him in the thigh, and watched him bleed while she called the police.

While handling the necessary and potentially crippling administrivia that daunted my organization, she also battled a chronic form of leukemia.  But Edna was no stranger to cancer, having survived breast cancer (double mastectomy) in her 50’s, and colon cancer in her 60’s.  For her?  Another annoyance.

She kept working part time for a few years after i’d moved on to the new job, but finally retired for good two years ago.  At 78 years old.

Last summer, i got word that she’d been hospitalized with pneumonia.  They found metastatic cancer in her lungs.  She decided to try some “gentle” chemo for a bit, but it made her weaker, so she told them to shove it.  Her son and daughter-in-law lived near by, and were providing daily care to help her maintain independence.  It was the hip-breaking fall in the bathtub in October that set the final showdown in motion.

Her daughter-in-law and son moved in to provide round-the-clock care.  Hospice was notified, and home medical care was kicked into play. 

Today?  A pizza party at her house, with a few of us from work.  The people she liked.  Edna never suffered the office fools with much humor, and was quite specific on who she didn’t want to darken her doorstep. 

Worried about the needs of her son and his wife, she insisted that they take next weekend off… and invited a neighbor to come and stay with her so they can return home for a little respite care themselves.  Her neighbor, a gentleman in his early 70’s, was glad to assist.  Edna informed him in no uncertain terms that sex was out of the question… mainly due to the fire hazard from the oxygen!  Sparks would be bad…

Speaking of fire, she’s still smoking.  With an oxygen hook up, i did a quick safety check.  Separate room for the oxygen and the smokes.  As she said “What’s the point of quitting now?”

Weighing in at 61 pounds, the cancer gets more nutrition than she does when she eats… and she’s too stubborn to feed the cancer.  Perhaps a month or two before she’s gone.  The toughest broad i’ve ever met tackled life Edna-style.  And is taking on death the same way…