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Life Arts    H4'ed 8/3/10

When Sober Misery in Life Leads to Death

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I expected to walk in to the funeral home and see my grandmother in the casket. I expected to spend time sitting and meeting people who wanted to come to terms with the loss of my grandmother. Asked to be one of the pallbearers, I expected to help carry the casket at some point. But, naively and innocently, I thought the misery and gradual degeneration of my grandmother's mental and physical abilities would likely not leave anybody in too much pain.

There she lay in the casket. It was my grandmother. But it wasn't really my grandmother. It was a body that had been prepared and nicely done up for presentation. My grandmother had been losing her teeth, her hair had been falling out more and more, she had been aging more and more rapidly, and she had been taking a number of medications that no doubt numbed and restrained the unsettling feelings of fear, which ebbed and flowed in her mind and body.

My grandfather who had divorced her came in to pay respects. Or, so the family thought until he chose to stay longer--stay for the entire afternoon viewing. He returned to the funeral home for the evening session. My father sternly informed his father that he did not have to be here. He was convinced he was there to help keep the situation cool between he and his brother, whose mother was the same woman prepared and nicely done up for presentation lying in the casket in the funeral home.

My father's brother had been for the most part missing in action in the last years of my grandmother's life. Largely, my father was left to do the heartrending work that comes from seeing your mother lose her capacity to live. It was he who checked on her, he who drove her around to get necessities and see doctors, he who was there to get her someone to come and live with her and assist her with living, and he who ultimately made the difficult decision to move her out to a nursing home permanently.

He handled the situation at the point where the house needed to be sold to Medicaid so Medicaid could cover the last leg of her life.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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