"Beautiful Day, Happy to Have Been Here."
August 6, 2013 2:37 PM   Subscribe

As 60 year old Seattle native Jane Lotter fought endometrial cancer, she decided to write her own obituary. On July 18 Lotter "took advantage of Washington state's compassionate Death with Dignity Act and died peacefully at home" with her family. Her obituary closed with the line "Beautiful day, happy to have been here," which her husband had inscribed on buttons that were handed out at her August 4 funeral.
posted by apricot (46 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was given the gift of life, and now I have to give it back. This is hard. But I was a lucky woman, who led a lucky existence, and for this I am grateful. I first got sick in January 2010. When the cancer recurred last year and was terminal, I decided to be joyful about having had a full life, rather than sad about having to die. Amazingly, this outlook worked for me. (Well, you know, most of the time.) Meditation and the study of Buddhist philosophy also helped me accept what I could not change. At any rate, I am at peace. And on that upbeat note, I take my mortal leave of this rollicking, revolving world-this sun, that moon, that walk around Green Lake, that stroll through the Pike Place Market, the memory of a child's hand in mine.


That was wonderful. What an incredible outlook on life she had. Wow.

May her memory be for a blessing.

.
posted by zarq at 2:44 PM on August 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


Jane took advantage of Washington state's compassionate Death with Dignity Act and died peacefully at home on July 18, surrounded by her family.

I hope that option becomes commonplace. And not the exception. And more of us get to write the epilogue on our own life story.

.
posted by DigDoug at 2:47 PM on August 6, 2013 [17 favorites]


I so hope this sort of thing is an option for me when the time comes. (The Death with Dignity option, I mean. I doubt there will be a need for me or anyone to write my obituary.)

Good on you, Jane. And good on you, State of Washington!
posted by trip and a half at 2:48 PM on August 6, 2013


DigDoug: "And more of us get to write the epilogue on our own life story."

I wonder how common it is for people to write their own obituaries?
posted by zarq at 2:49 PM on August 6, 2013


Here's to you, Jane Lotter: a model of a good life and a good death.

also: this post needs the "somethinginmyeye" tag
posted by scody at 2:52 PM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can't stop crying. I am thinking of my dad, who is spending time at home before returning to the hospital, perhaps for the last time. I can't even begin to imagine what we will write for his obit and I wish to god he could write it for us, just like that.
posted by mochapickle at 2:55 PM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I so hope this sort of thing is an option for me when the time comes.
Agreed. I don't want someone to have to make the decisions my brother and I had to make at the end of my dad's life.
posted by pibeandres at 3:04 PM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


That's more than death with dignity, that's death with class. I a little teary here, there's nothing that scares me more than either having to live without my wife or leaving her alone. I don't think that I could be that courageous.
posted by octothorpe at 3:15 PM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


.

I never before realized how impersonal obits are; how removed from the departed. A third-person listing of accomplishments and survivors has nothing on this beautiful, personal, funny obituary that makes me genuinely sad a stranger has passed.
posted by jenlovesponies at 3:21 PM on August 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


Cheers to life well lived!
posted by Max Power at 3:22 PM on August 6, 2013


Yup. I cried. A++, would cry again.

.
posted by jph at 3:23 PM on August 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


.

Wow...very moving and inspirational. I love the part where she says obstacles in life's path are not obstacles, they ARE the path. Wisdom!
posted by Vibrissae at 3:31 PM on August 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


I got all the way to "I wish you such good things."

.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:32 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Crying so hard. That was wonderful. My mother died about five years ago, and wrote her own obituary, but it was in the third person. She was 86, of an older generation. I'm in favor of the first person obit.
posted by rainbaby at 3:33 PM on August 6, 2013


It knocks me out that only three states have Death with Dignity laws.

I watched my mother die in hospice. "It's in God's hands now," said one nice nurse. Well, not really. What we were doing was waiting to see what the cause of death would be: the cancer, starvation or dehydration. (Food was out of the question; she was too out of it to eat. And water, which she asked for again and again and again, when she wasn't semi-unconscious, made her wretch unless daubed on her lips with a q-tip.) Drugs were promised "if necessary to relieve discomfort," but discouraged if the staff disagreed with what we took to be discomfort. "No, that's perfectly normal in these cases. She's not in distress for someone in her condition."

My dad, bless his heart, then 90, put his complete faith and trust in the hospice staff for management of her death. He pretty much held my mom's hand for two weeks straight, believing that he was doing the right thing by bearing witness to her suffering.

I was pretty bitter at the time. I told my sister that we wouldn't let a dog go through this, and she responded, "Don't you dare say that in front of Dad."

Anyhow, I do think the self-written obit is pretty terrific, it's just that I have this acute personal acquaintance with the wrong way to die, and it pretty much takes over.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 3:35 PM on August 6, 2013 [21 favorites]


This made me cry too.

I really cannot recommend How to Die in Oregon enough.
posted by eugenen at 3:51 PM on August 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


An obit serves three purposes: 1. it's a public notice of death, 2. it lets the community know when funeral services will be held and 3. it lists family and survivors for future generations and genealogists. When a family is unwilling or unable to write their obituary, I write it for them. I strive for accuracy, not poetry. But I'm always happy when a family brings in a heartfelt and personalized obituary. It's better for them and better for me. This was a good funeral. Thanks for sharing with us.
posted by ColdChef at 4:16 PM on August 6, 2013 [27 favorites]


Beautiful. Bittersweet. Honest. Real. Wonderful to read and a good reminder to focus on the things and people that matter most. I especially liked the bit about obstacles on the path BEING the path. Wonderful. Raising a drink.
posted by jnnla at 4:23 PM on August 6, 2013


Beautiful story. Great, old-school yet fresh writing in the obit. I've campaigned for similar laws in my state and continue to hope.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:27 PM on August 6, 2013


The older I get, the more I wish for a good death. That sounds morbid, I know - and believe me, I want to live but lord do I fear a bad death.

Peace to her family.
posted by Space Kitty at 4:28 PM on August 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


Drugs were promised "if necessary to relieve discomfort," but discouraged if the staff disagreed with what we took to be discomfort. "No, that's perfectly normal in these cases. She's not in distress for someone in her condition."

I had a family in a hospice situation a few years back and they were having trouble because it was Christmas Eve and the pain medication was locked up in the pharmacy until December 27. The daughter called me to ask me if she would be able to make funeral arrangements from jail because she was planning on breaking into the pharmacy to get the pain meds her mother needed, sending them with her husband and then waiting for the police to arrive. "Also, could you hold off the funeral until I can make bail?" she asked.

I offered her an alternative. I called my aunt who graduated high school with the pharmacist, got him to open up on Christmas Eve, got the meds she needed, and she passed peacefully and painlessly the next morning. No jail time needed.
posted by ColdChef at 4:47 PM on August 6, 2013 [68 favorites]


it was Christmas Eve and the pain medication was locked up in the pharmacy until December 27.

WTF
posted by notreally at 4:54 PM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is so much to love about this piece but my personal favorite part is her authorial impulse to promote her book. RIP you crazy, beautiful, person.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:00 PM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


it was Christmas Eve and the pain medication was locked up in the pharmacy until December 27.

WTF


It was a misunderstand between hospice workers. One thought they had plenty of meds. The other was all, "Uh, no. You were supposed to get more." It worked out, but man. I hate to see families in that kind of situation. There was a local woman who was in hospice for weeks. The only nutrition she took in were tiny sips of water and hard peppermints. She lasted nearly thirty days on those. When she died, she was small enough for me to carry her out of her room like a sleeping child.
posted by ColdChef at 5:04 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


When my mother was in hospice she hoarded her pain meds until she knew she had a supply sufficient to kill herself in case things got too horrible. I was the only one that knew about this. I believe she had to trust someone, since she probably wasn't going to be able to get them herself.

It is so hard to maintain dignity at the end. Hospice workers are wonderful people. We only had a bad experience with one, and that was mostly just a personality thing. My mother tried to leave money to one of the workers, but was told she couldn't.

End of life and pain management sucks in this country.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:05 PM on August 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wow. I feel like I know Jane Lotter now. What a sweetheart.
posted by dubwisened at 5:18 PM on August 6, 2013


Something in my throat.
posted by grubby at 5:29 PM on August 6, 2013


Can't. Can't read it. Mom's in hospice now, and it's getting to that stage. Given the option, she would have checked out a while ago. And now... the next few days or weeks... I just can't.
posted by MrVisible at 5:31 PM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


The only nutrition she took in were tiny sips of water and hard peppermints. She lasted nearly thirty days on those. When she died, she was small enough for me to carry her out of her room like a sleeping child.

How do you do it? And thank you for doing it. Thank you very much.

It seems you either die tragically quick, or tragically slow. Perhaps, occasionally, the only good part of dying, should you be granted such, are the few sober and weighted moments like the one Jane seems to have had when she wrote this.

Death be not proud. Jane and ColdChef on the other hand...
posted by Toekneesan at 5:35 PM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Beautiful. She was so lucky to be able to do this. What I really want is a law that allows someone who becomes fully disabled by dementia (as with Parkinson's, or Alzheimer's) to have an advance directive that allows death with dignity.
No such thing currently exists, so I had to watch my hale, healthy mother wither with her Alzheimer's, knowing that she *never* would have wanted an end like that. For a year before her passing, her world was tiny, and all inside her head - she was mostly deaf, blind with macular degeneration, and lost the ability to speak (and ultimately, chew).
It's my personal terror that the same will happen to me.
posted by dbmcd at 5:38 PM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Jane was, no, is, my younger sister. She was a genuinely good person, kind in thought, word and deed. She has a wonderful husband, a great marriage and two beautiful children who I am sure will carry on her legacy and be good people also. And, she is the bravest person I know. I love you, Jane. We all love you. You've left a gigantic hole in our lives. Be at peace my dear.
posted by eepersmom at 5:40 PM on August 6, 2013 [97 favorites]


ColdChef: "I had a family in a hospice situation a few years back and they were having trouble because it was Christmas Eve and the pain medication was locked up in the pharmacy until December 27. "

My Dad died two years ago this coming October. He was in a nursing home under the care of a local Hospice. He was supposed to be on Morphine, but the nursing home wouldn't/couldn't administer it because all they had was locked in their backup drug safe. When the Hospice doctor found out Dad wasn't getting the drugs, he raised hell with the nursing home administrator and *convinced* them it was in their best interests to open the locks. Even with that, twice during the evening of his final day we had to run down nursing home employees to remind them that Dad was overdue for his hourly dose.

Sometimes people suck.
posted by jgaiser at 5:42 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I cared for my mom well into stage III Alzheimer's. It was only through the mercy of a massive stroke that her suffering was shortened. Myself, I neither seek nor need the permission of my state (Texas? Hahaha!) to end my life when and how I choose. And if they don't like it they can always (literally) drag me into court postmortem...
posted by jim in austin at 5:58 PM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


What a great smile, and a great obituary. So much loss in this thread - I am sorry for every loss, especially those that were needlessly painful. In the last several years, I lost a bunch of people I loved, and they all got good treatment. I'm less worried about having a good death than about having a good life. Sounds like Jane had both, may she rest in peace.
posted by theora55 at 6:02 PM on August 6, 2013


I can't understand why it's such a battle to enact Death with Dignity laws in other states for the terminally ill. After watching my mom suffer unspeakably with ALS, I have become a very strong supporter of this legislation here in New Jersey. No one should have to go out like that. It is a disease that is 100% fatal. Who is hurt by letting someone with a death sentence like that have some control over how they go? I am glad that this woman had the option.
posted by amro at 6:09 PM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Almost anyone can write their own obituary. It just takes some coordination to be sure the survivors know to use it, and to periodically keep it up to date and perhaps indicate where the record is allowed to be updated.
posted by michaelh at 6:16 PM on August 6, 2013


Many complicated feelings. I'm totally sad that Jane Lotter is no longer in this world, living what sounds like a wonderful life. At the same time, as this illustrates, there are things worse than dying while still rational, aware, articulate--able to go with some dignity, and while giving and receiving love. I'm also 60, and very aware that while I'm really not ready to die yet, I can contemplate with equanimity the possible (probable? given my family history of cancer) eventuality of making the decision and taking the steps to go while the going is good. And I know with total certainty I will never, ever, as long as I do still exist, live in a state that doesn't have a Death With Dignity law.
posted by Kat Allison at 7:36 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Please accept my deepest condolences, eepersmom. And deep deep sympathy to everyone in this thread who's watching or has watched a beloved die (and to those reading along in more private pain).
I wrote my dad's obituary with a glass or some of wine at the table in the faculty club where he spent so many fine hours in the company of his colleagues and friends, and it helped and hurt my heart to do it. I can't imagine having the strength and grace to write one's own, and to do so as well as Ms. Lotter. What an exceptional person - I'm sorry I missed her.
posted by gingerest at 8:06 PM on August 6, 2013


Argh, and I posted before seeing the comment from eepersmom -- I am so very, very sorry for the loss of your sister. Love and wisdom come through so clearly in your words, just as in hers.
posted by Kat Allison at 8:50 PM on August 6, 2013


It was a HUGE battle here to get that Death with Dignity law. I used to like Martin Sheen, but he completely lost me after his heavy politicking against it when it was on the ballot here. I have a friend who wasn't able to take advantage of it, as hard as she and her partner tried, but I'm glad to hear that it's not as impossible as it seems. She sounds like one amazing woman, and truly brave to have chosen that path.
posted by emcat8 at 10:29 PM on August 6, 2013


I wish I could have known her in life.
posted by Mojojojo at 11:10 PM on August 6, 2013


Drugs were promised "if necessary to relieve discomfort," but discouraged if the staff disagreed with what we took to be discomfort. "No, that's perfectly normal in these cases. She's not in distress for someone in her condition."

Fsckers.

When my wife decided to stop treatment and let things take their course, our doctors were very careful in making sure she was never in pain throughout the process, keeping up pain medication up to the very end. They also kept up the bare minimum of medication needed for her to be as comfortable as possible while she was dying. It took her about a month to die, with the pain kept to a minimum and she keeping up her mind, her dignity up until the end. She had the option even to check into a hospice for end of life care for that month, but chose to remain on the hospital ward where the nurses (two of which were witnesses at our wedding even) and doctors knew her, having spent most of the past two years there.

It was not a bad way to die for her, with a more active form of euthenasia not available (as in that it would've taken more time, hassle and energy she and I didn't have to arrange it). Speaking with one our smoking break acquaintances (best way to get to know the nursing staff and regulars at any hospital) whose father had chosen to actively end his life, there was that measure of relief and sorrow that comes with it. Sorrow he died, relief he died well, without pain and when he chose it, not when it was forced upon him. This is why I think euthenasia, the ability to chose you own death, should be a fundamental right of any human being.

That last month, strange as it may sound, was actually quite comforting in its way. We actually started the whole process with a celebration, a last Sunday roast for the whole family (provided for free, though we never asked for this, by Hoopman Irish Pub), she said goodbye to everybody, then we just spent as much time together as we could, even if it was just watching standup on youtube.

(She died on November 7th 2011, so as I write this, it's been exactly a year and nine months since her death. Seems shorter.)
posted by MartinWisse at 11:34 PM on August 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


Well if I ever get to Hoopman Irish Pub its drinks all around on me and a double tip on the order for the bartender. We'll be toasting Jane and your own wife's peaceful passing.
posted by allkindsoftime at 2:00 AM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I got to " I met Bob Marts at the Central Tavern in Pioneer Square on November 22, 1975, which was the luckiest night of my life. We were married on April 7, 1984. Bobby M, I love you up to the sky." before I started crying.
posted by Theta States at 9:28 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't understand why it's such a battle to enact Death with Dignity laws in other states for the terminally ill.

There are a few strong reasons that usually hold a lot of sway: pressure from both doctor groups and disability rights activists mainly. In some states, like we have read in other threads, the cost of various sorts of health care can become a real quality of life issue for people who rely on state assistance to be able to live independently. There are some real problems with our current model of both health care finances (where it's cheaper to institutionalize people than effectively treat and support them) and the way we view the severely disabled in this country such that there are very real concerns that what might be considered a "terminal" condition might just be a severe mental or physical disability. There's a real minefield surrounding mental and physical illnesses and about making the decision to die. I am a death with dignity advocate but I'm pretty on the fence about a lot of it and we had a bill that just failed to pass in Vermont. There were many compelling arguments on both sides, it's very tricky.

Thank you so much for this post and to others for sharing their stories.
posted by jessamyn at 9:36 AM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's the reason why it was too hard for us to go for active euthanasia, because there are safeguards built into the process to make sure you're not being coerced, are not acting out of a temporary feeling of despair, are of sound mind if not sound body, etc.

Also, incidently, why I've thought Ian McEwan was a stupid plonker long before he bigged up the War on Iraq in Saturday, as in his novel Amsterdam he made it seem like getting somebody euthanised involuntarily in the Netherlands would be as easy as buying aspirins from a chemist.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:01 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


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