A long time family friend, Inge, died at 64 this week in my home town in Germany after a four year torture by Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Two weeks earlier she had decided she wanted to end this crippling condition on the only terms still left to her, by refusing to be fed. When my mother visited her one last time two days before she died she wrote on her magic drawing tablet (she had been unable to speak for the past 7 months): “You just went to Ireland – do you have photos?” It was an honest interest, characteristic of her caring personality.
My 4 yr old daughter Kira and I had just seen her and her husband in May, and Kira was at first curious why an adult would use a drawing tablet, and then sad to learn why. She, too, could tell that our friend was just like everyone else at the table, but simply could not speak or eat. In an instant, she accepted it and engaged her in her usual extroverted way.
In addition to being powerless in facing her encroaching, cruel and untimely death Inge carried another burden. She had a great love for children but her daughter-in-law allowed her extremely little contact with her four grandchildren. Inge was not the least bit pushy, nor judgmental, nor ideologically warped, and yet, somehow this young mother thought of her children as exclusively her own, and didn’t want to share. It’s a constellation that I’ve seen an awful lot.