The director’s cut

The young doctor was attempting to verbally corral my mother, to no avail.

“But you see, Mrs. B . . . “

“No, I don’t see, young lady. I don’t see your point at all.”

“The episode you had was a . . . “

“Don’t say the word. Don’t say it again. I’m not going to die like my mother, from a stroke. I, my dear, am going to die from a heart attack. A massive, quick heart attack which will be over and done with quickly.”

The doctor was rendered speechless for a moment or two, as she absorbed what my mother had just said.

My sister gently intervened. “Mom, you don’t get to choose how you die. It just happens.”

I completely understood where Mom was coming from in that instant. She was done rolling with it.

Rolling with it, and rolling with the punches, are phrases my family uses to denote going with the flow. Get the one-two punch and roll with it to catch your breath as you determine your next move.

Mom was being hit with truly ill health for the first time in her life, in her eighties. She was having a rough year. Her control freak tendencies were in full bloom as life continued to throw curveballs at her.

Her insistence on how she would die might sound silly to you, but I was so tracking with her. She was saying, “Enough!” to the Universe, arguing with God, feeling misunderstood and put upon.

She knew she was heading toward death sooner than later—something most of us accept by our mid-eighties.

But the ultimate indignity, in her mind, was to not only have to head toward death while still so alive but also then to have to acquiesce to death however it was served up to her. My mother was not one to passively allow life to happen; rather, she carved out what she wanted with an iron will.

One might call it a God complex, wanting so much control.

Film director's chair with a megaphone

Or, one might call it being painfully human in the face of a Universe that continues to show you how not in control of the show you are. And the beauty of it is, we are all in this situation. Some of us are clueless, however, as life takes it easy on us. Others of us wonder how the heck to handle the bevy of fastballs and curveballs coming our way. Some get a little of both scenarios.

I am more philosophical some days than others. Most days, I can admit that a power far wiser than me is in control.

But today, I’m feeling a bit feisty with what is being served up. If we each have to star in our own show, it seems life should give us the option for a shot at Best Picture, right?

I am channeling my mother this week.

Put me in the Director’s chair.

27 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh! How did you live through it, to see your mom fight with what has been served to her. The anguish is something I saw my parents go through with their grandparents

    1. candidkay says:

      It changes you. That is for sure.

  2. Elyse says:

    This is a great post, Kay. We should all be able to control our destiny.

  3. I can relate to this as my mother was the same with her diagnosis. For the first time – no control. Still, because she then knew her time was limited, she managed to control the legacy that she left in that last 10 months.

    This was also one of the terrifying things about divorce – being out of control (for me) of the decision, the process (which ended up being the lawyer’s control), and the start of my new life which could not commence until that process was over. One of the liberating things now is the resurrection of my control.

    Great post.

    1. candidkay says:

      So many similarities in our situations. The resurrection of control–for me, yes, but I see it is still somewhat of an illusion. The curveballs still come. I am better, though, at controlling my reactions. Sweet relief.

  4. Aunt Beulah says:

    My former mother-in-law and dear friend, admitted to the hospital yesterday and told she had pneumonia, asked the doctor if it she could die from it. He said she could; but she could also recover from it with the help of antibiotics. She then told him to stop the antibiotics, send her home, and contact hospice to make her as comfortable as possible. He agreed. At 99 years and 8 months, she’s still calling the shots. I think she and your mother would have liked each other.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, what a wonderful thing. I hope that doesn’t sound odd, but my mother declined surgery so she could go. There was a chance she’d never be the same after it and she didn’t want to chance what she saw as half a life. Your friend is brave and wise.

  5. fritzdenis says:

    Years ago I went to an interfaith gathering designed to promote tolerance between different religions. A Jewish man explained that his tradition took pride in their right to argue with God. I can appreciate that now. It’s an argument that no one can win, but it feels good to be able to vent.

    1. candidkay says:

      I love that:). It’s hard when you can only see 200 ft. ahead. You want the mountaintop view of the road!

  6. Marie says:

    Love your fierce wit and stubborn self-assuredness.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you:). Needed that this AM.

  7. So much of the world is scary and beyond our control. Is it any wonder your mother (and all of us for that matter) want to have a say in our fate? Alas, we don’t. Still, your Mom sounds like a cool woman.

    1. candidkay says:

      It’s akin to being on a roller coaster in the dark:). Not sure where the next twist or turn is–and you just hope it’s fun.

  8. srbottch says:

    Interesting, my father dies if a heart attack. I can hear his occasional refrain now, “When I go, I want to go just like that (with a snap of his fingers)!” He did, at age 76, while still working, hanging wallpaper. Funny, but it added to his aura. maybe if we talk enough about how ‘the end’ should be staged, ‘someone’ might hear us and make the accommodation. Stranger things have happened…

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, he got to go the way he wanted. Lucky guy. So few of us get that. I envy my grandfather, who went peacefully in his sleep. But he was such a peaceful, easygoing guy, none of us were surprised:).

  9. Your mother sounds amazing! I hope and pray for the same strength and the faculties to use it. Thanks for sharing… apple, it seems, doesn’t fall far.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! It’s not a bad tree to fall far from:).

  10. heyjude6119 says:

    I would be like your mother dictating how I’m going to die, knowing full well that I don’t have any control but issuing orders anyway. It’s a facade of control but it is the humorous way I deal with life, like making up my own rules for sports and traffic, etc…

    1. candidkay says:

      Aren’t we funny little humans? 🙂 Even when we know we have no control, we require the illusion of it. I wonder if God chuckles . . .

  11. You make me smile Kay…I enjoy your writing, and your journey…but I wonder where you get that feisty bit from 😀

    1. candidkay says:

      Ah, and now it all becomes clear:).

  12. Mercy says:

    Healing Grief wrote most eloquently similar thoughts I had as I read your post. Your mother’s wishes and worries resonate with me because like you said, we’re all painfully human. You beautifully expressed your understanding and support for your mother while she grappled with a loss of control. I hope someone held a director’s chair for you today and handed you a megaphone.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! Not yet but the day is young. . .

  13. This is such an important topic to discuss Kay. Everyone feels this way at some point in their life, and I think we all understand how it feels to be out of control. Of course the answer is to surrender and to be the best we can on any given day, but somedays we just need to yell out loud, it’s not fair!! and that’s okay too! I wish your Mum good health and a long life. 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you for the kind words. My mom did pass away a few years ago. I’m just remembering her this week and her iron will.

      1. Oh sorry Kay. I’m sure you will never forget her strength!

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