Information about Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act is available on the official state site.
Everything I have to say on the matter is pasted below. If you are considering the assisted suicide process, or are the family member of someone who is considering or has used the process to hasten their death, I would be more than happy to talk with you about my/our (as a community) experience (both the good and the bad) or put you in touch with others in our family who were more involved in the logistics. Please email me directly at kelli at kellidunham dawt com.
Please note that Heather had been living in Portland for almost a year when she used the assisted suicide process to hasten her death. The minimum residence requirement is six months. Any reference to Heather as a “suicide tourist” is both grossly inaccurate and grossly insensitive.
I wrote the following on my blog on February 14th, 2008, the day after Heather’s death:
My Queen’s Final Days
It was a little before 7 am when I started this post, sitting in the living room of our house, wearing Heather’s hoodie and drinking tea. This is the quietest this house has been in a long long time. At first I thought I wouldn’t want to stay here last night, folks have been great about offering me a place…but Stacy stayed with me and, I don’t know, I just wanted to be here.
This morning I woke up at 6:33, which is often about the time when I would hear the refrigerator open, and it would be Heather looking for something to eat which wouldn’t make her sick. Usually I would holler out “Hey, my Queen, do you want a smoothie?” and then go in the kitchen to see her, standing there in her black hoodie and pajama bottoms and harley davidson slippers. She would almost always give me a hug, no matter how she was feeling, which was such an act of generosity considering how shitty she felt sometimes. And then I’d sing her a little song that is so corny that I can’t even relate it here, and she would roll her eyes and say “I love you, my strange boi.”
It’s been a while since we have had a morning like that though, and this is a little of what I want to share with you all, about the few weeks leading up to this one, and what it has been like for Heather lately and why her actions yesterday made perfect sense. Heh–not that Heather would want me to justify her actions, or explain them to anyone! But the only thing that makes me feel even a little tiny better is knowing how ready she was to leave us.
Although the past few weeks are very much a blur for me, the overwhelming words I can articulate is love within suffering.
I have written some, at Heather’s request, about her all night pain episodes, but those posts cannot even come close to describing what she has been going through, especially the past few weeks. She had unremitting pain that continued even when we were giving IV phenobarbital, even after she was put on an IV pump and given pain medicine around the clock. She has also been essentally unable to eat. At least 5 of the past 14 nights before her death we were up all night, sometimes with hospice here, trying to get her symptoms under control.
Yesterday morning I crawled in bed with Heather to give her sisters a much needed break. When she woke up she said “Oh man, you’re still here” and I said “gee thanks a lot” and she responded “oh man, it’s just that it means that I’m not dead yet.” I started sobbing and she patted my head and said “boi, it’s just time. I am ready. I am tired. It’s time for me to go.”
Those of you who have been through the years with Heather’s illness and her experience of fighting, know, that for Heather to say “I am ready” is..well, very different than what she has been saying for a very long time.
She said amazing goodbyes, she was surrounded not just by her family here, but by all your love, she felt it, she knew it. I always used to say to Heather “there is so much I can’t change for you, but I can say one thing: as long as you want to be here, I will be with you, I will have your back.” and while those were my words, I felt the force of our amazing beautiful community behind them. She was able to go in such peace because she was so loved, because she had lived in love for so long.
At her request, I gave Heather the IV Zofran (anti nausea drugs) that she needed yesterday to not throw up the assisted suicide meds. As I drew up the dose, I was singing the Snoopy song (I often do a Snoopy Dance for Heather. Long story) but my voice was shaking. As I looked her into her loving, peaceful face I realized I wasn’t trying to cheer up Heather, I was trying to maintain my own courage.
Being a part of yesterday’s events was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and at the same time, Heather deserved no less. Although it was easy to see what I did for Heather (eg laundry), she did so much for me. She loved me in a pure, sweet way that saw me for all my goofy boiness and took the imperfect gift of service that I had to give, and treasured it in a way that I will miss, I am sure, for the rest of my life.
Many folks have inquired after me, and I appreciate the love and support. I don’t know what to ask you for, except to keep loving me. I could never have given what I gave to Heather without knowing you all would be here for me after she was gone. I need you all very much now, the person who has been the focus of my life for some time is gone. I somehow can’t believe it. A chevalier without a queen feels very lost.
I will write mroe later about my future plans, but for now I wanted to get out a post from me.