The Quick Death vs Slow Dying

In the last 5 years I have dealt with 3 deaths in my immediate family. My mom passed away from Cancer, it’ll be 5 years ago this August. My husband’s grandmother passed away last summer. And my grandfather passed away at the end of January. I have witnessed terminal illness, old age, and sudden passing and I have been thinking a lot about them lately.

There is always some debate, between people and especially internally, as to which is better – to go slowly, to know it is coming, or to simply be gone.

My mother received her terminal diagnosis in the spring. A few years earlier she’d been diagnosed with a form of skin cancer; she had a tumor growing behind her eye. She had an operation and the tumor shrunk and became benign and she went into remission. Until, a few years later, the cancer showed up in her liver. It was aggressive. It was a secondary sight. They didn’t think operating would help in the long run. So they did chemo for nearly a year, three different types. We battled the exhaustion and the low blood count and the nausea and the hair loss. By the time my daughter was born the tumor was so large and so inflamed by the chemo that she was in almost constant pain. When my daughter would try to bounce, as little children do, my mother would hand her back because sure enough she’d put a little foot on the sore spot. She wore a fancy hat to walk my sister down the aisle at her wedding because she’d cut her hair short a few months earlier. My sister got married after the terminal diagnosis. Over the summer her health deteriorated at an alarming rate. By mid-August she was gone.

The fight against the Cancer was hard on all of us. We were all exhausted. I had a child with Colic and a toddler and I had to keep them quiet all the time so she could sleep (we were living at home to help care for her). But her passing was peaceful.

The public health nurse spent the night. She went in to check on my mother around 5 am and she was sleeping peacefully, though her breathing was laboured. My father came down around 6:30 to get ready for work, and she was already gone.

When battling a terminal illness, especially one that caused so much pain, your sorrow is mixed with a sense of relief. Yes, you miss them, no, it’s not fair, but they are finally pain free, they are finally Cancer free, they are finally at peace and you can’t help but feel relieved.

My husband’s grandmother passed away peacefully with her family around her on a Sunday afternoon this past July. She was in her 90s. She’d had a stroke, and while she bounced back and was able to talk and feed herself again she never fully recovered. She didn’t walk anymore. She lived in a care home. We watched as her mobility and energy levels decreased, as her ability to talk slipped away again. The care home called the family and told us they thought she had a week, maybe two, left. We were all able to visit her, to say good-bye. She would smile and nod but had no more words for us.

Marie was very old. Her husband had been gone 14 years. All her children were grown. All her grandchildren were grown. About half of her numerous grandchildren were married. She had 19 great grand children, the youngest of whom was born the day she died. We were sad, and while there was no sense of relieve here, there was a sense of acceptance. She was old, she was tired, she was ready to let go. She was strong in her faith so if there is a heaven, or if the afterlife is simply whatever you believed it to be on Earth, then she is happy and reunited with her husband and her siblings.

My grandfather went out one morning and fell and hit his head. It was January, and here that means snow and ice. I thought he had slipped, my grandmother is sure he had a second stroke. He had mobility issues and used a walker for balance ever since the first stroke. Unlike my mother and my husband’s grandmother we had no warning. One day he was fine, though his health was slowly failing. We thought we had a year or two with him at least. Then he fell, and we all held out hope that he would wake up and could spend a few months in a care home. Then it was shortened to maybe two weeks, maybe only a week. Then I went to visit him in the hospital and I knew. He was breathing the same way my mom was those last few days and I knew. So I said good-bye. He died very early the next morning.

There was intense sorrow at his passing. I wanted to say that it wasn’t fair but death is never fair. My husband put what I was feeling into words. “His death felt cheap.” How does the saying go? Warriors don’t die falling down the stairs? Of course, at first, we thought it was a fall, that he had slipped, that an icy patch in the wrong place had stolen him from us. Knowing it was more likely a second stroke – well, sudden passings are painful in a unique way but we knew his health was failing and we knew he was at risk for a second stroke. Still, more than with my mother, more than with Marie, if felt as if my grandfather was stolen from us.

So what is harder? I don’t know. I know the fighting that comes with potentially terminal disease is hard, perhaps the hardest. But the death? Letting go of my mother was surprisingly easy though I still grieve and I still miss her. Letting go of Marie was easy as well, perhaps because she was more my husband’s family than mine, perhaps because her life was fully lived, I don’t know. But walking out of that hospital room, knowing beyond a doubt that it was the last time I would see him, was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I could have stayed there for hours, days even, if I thought my presence could change things. I could have stayed anyways, and just sat and remembered for hours until he passed. Or perhaps it’s just that this pain is still the newest, that it hasn’t had time to fade into acceptance the way it has with my mother and Marie.

Why do we talk about such things? Because when I loved one passes we begin to think about our own inevitable end. My other grandparents still have a foster child. What happens if something happens suddenly to one or both of them? Where does this child go? What do they feel about life support? What about my dad? He’s had a heart attack already, and though he’s still young, too young to dwell on dying, the thought comes to mind. What would I do without both my parents? What about me? My husband? What if I get sick? Cancer seems rampant in my family in many forms. What if my husband has an accident at work? What if we’re in a car accident? We have two young children. And so we talk about these things. Do I want to be on life support? Who will watch the children? For a few weeks anyway we talk about dying and then death becomes a distant figment once again and we live each day thinking we have hundreds more ahead of us.

It is important to talk about such things. I think culturally we have pushed death out of sight for too long. Having my mother home at the end was an experience I will never forget and am eternally grateful for. My grandparents came over, and my aunt. We sat and visited and mourned together. The gentleman at the funeral home gave us a few hours before coming to collect my mother’s body for cremation. It was like having a wake. But with tea instead of beer. I took my children to all three funerals. Death is not something we can ignore, nor is it something we should fear.

For those who follow my blog who are writers, death is something we think about all the time. When and how is it appropriate to feature death in our stories. Sometimes our characters must die. What is the impact we want to create with that death? What emotions do we want to evoke in the surviving characters, and in our readers? We struggle to find deaths that are emotionally fitting for our stories. Perhaps this will help you plan a piece of your story, because those deaths are the only ones you truly have control over.

Our own deaths are a mystery. And what legacy we will leave behind, what we will be remember for, in a way, that is a mystery as well but at least we can strive to shape that into something positive while we are still alive.

8 ways to stop RAPE

rape-stats-2 1 in 4 women. 1 in 6 men. And considering how under reported rape is those numbers are probably higher. Most of us are looking for ways to stop this, to turn the tied of sexual violence. For our sakes, for the sake of our children’s safety. Here are the top 8 things I think need to be done to finally decrease these numbers.

1. Stop putting the blame and the responsibility on the victim.

We have to stop saying “she should have worn a longer skirt” or “she shouldn’t have been drinking” or “but men want sex all the time”. Those are not reasons. They’re not even excuses. Saying these things makes it the victims fault they were attacked.

Yes, there are things we all can do to make ourselves physically safer in a dangerous world, like travelling in pairs, talking on our phones to a loved one while we walk, don’t drink too much, be aware of our surroundings, etc. But just because someone chooses to wear something that someone else finds attractive does not give them the right or permission to have sex with them.Just because someone is vulnerable does not give someone else the right or permission to have sex with them.

So the first reason why we have to stop blaming the victim is because it’s not the victim’s fault. If you are a victim of rape listen to me very clearly. IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT.

The second reason is that it makes it more difficult for the victim to come forward. No one will believe them, and everyone will start asking them what they were wearing, if they were drinking, etc, forcing them to relive the trauma with no purpose.

The third reason is that your reasoning falls apart with other types of crime. When you mug someone who is drunk you don’t question whether a crime was committed or not. You don’t say that the drunk person was asking for it. You don’t make these excuses when someone is killed. Why do we say these things about rape?

2. Give women the rights to their own bodies.

This is not limited to discussions of abortion. What I’m talking about here is birth control. Tubular ligation. Basic health care. I have heard hundreds of stories about women who were denied medication or basic care because their doctors dismissed them as silly girls who didn’t know anything.

Women under 30 who have 2 or fewer children and/or are not married cannot get a tubular ligation. Women under 40 who have no children cannot get a tubular ligation. Women cannot get a tubular ligation without the knowledge and consent of their husbands. Even if it is in the woman’s best interest, health wise, to have her tubes tied, she can’t unless she has 3 children, is over 40, her husband approves (if she’s married).

In most cases, in most places, a man can get a vasectomy with a 10 minute consultation and a 30 minute appointment. The consultation covers what to do after the surgery to avoid swelling and pain. He does not need to share how many children he has, or if he is married. His spouse is never consulted. The only reason his age is asked is to check for other age related complications like blood pressure.

I understand that vasectomies are more easily reversed than a tubular ligation and that there are no other reliable long-to-mid-range birth control options available to men. That doesn’t change the fact that when a woman goes to her doctor and says “Two kids is enough for me” she knows herself, her body, her emotional capacity for stress and chaos, etc. and is making an informed decision about her own health and should be respected. She shouldn’t be met with “you’ll change you’re mind later” as if she was a child choosing clothing or what colour cup to drink out of.

And women are shamed for using birth control. It is not covered by public health care in my province because it is deemed “not a necessary medical process/prescription”. Private insurance companies can choose whether to include it in their prescription coverage. And I can tell you that covering birth control is cheaper than covering mat leave so it’s not a money thing. It’s a control thing.

When a woman goes to the doctor complaining of pain at a level 8 or higher they are told they are imagining things even though science has proven that women are more likely to downplay they pain they feel (ie rate a level 10 pain as an 8) rather than exaggerate it (label a level 8 pain as a 10).

How does this apply to rape? If the medical community does not give full rights to a woman when discussing her body how can we expect everyone else to? A doctor will not let me make my own decisions about my reproductive health. Is it any surprise that our opinions on who we want to sleep with and when are ignored as well?

3. Employ more female police officers, crime scene investigators, lawyers, and judges. And actually process rape kits.

Female victims are more likely to report rape to another female. If a woman walks into a police station and asks to speak to a female officer her request should be honoured without question as she probably wants to report rape, sexual harassment, or domestic violence.

Rape kits on female rape victims should be collected by female nurses, doctors, or investigators in as many cases as possible to ease the trauma to the victim. They should have access to a female lawyer if they choose it.

This goes above and beyond fair hiring practices. This isn’t about representation or equal rights, it’s about improving the chances that the rape will be reported and investigated. On that note, actually process the rape kits.

The back log on rape kits is longer than the statute of limitations on rape charges. That’s right, in some places she will never be able to press charges, or if she does press charges it will never go to trial, because the police will not process the evidence fast enough.

In processing out of date rape kits many districts have discovered that the number of serial rapists is higher than they originally thought. If the first rape kit had been processed on time they could have stopped countless other rapes committed by that same person.

Now judges is a tricky business, they have to remain impartial. But male judges are not being impartial. How is holding someone’s school options at a higher importance than someone else’s physical trauma unbiased? How is telling a victim she should have fought harder being unbiased? And yet this is happening.

Brock Turner was given a slap on the wrist sentence because anything more would have ruined his academic and sports careers. A judge in Alberta told a victim who was raped in a bar bathroom that she should have dropped her bum further into the sink to deny him access to her body. She should have kept her legs together.

Maybe we need female judges to hold lawyers accountable, to stop them from asking “what were you wearing?” or “how much did you have to drink?”. The question isn’t “did you say no?” the question should be “did you say yes?” The absence of a no does not equal consent. Being too drunk to say no does not equal consent. Being too scared to say no does not equal consent. And maybe if we had female judges overseeing rape cases we would see two things happen – the number of false accusations and false convictions would drop, and the number of actual convictions and convictions with meaningful sentences, would rise.

4. All juries for all rape cases that go to trial should be 50% female. This should be mandatory.

Don’t feed me any crap about “women can’t be unbiased in a rape case”. We need to stop letting old white men decide things about women’s bodies, whether it’s in the laws they are passing or the laws they are enforcing. Because there’s no way in hell men are unbiased in a rape case either.

They’re thinking about their sisters and their daughters and what they would do to a boy if he ever touched her without her consent.

Or they’re thinking about that girl they fucked at a party who may not have really given consent and it wasn’t really rape because she was drunk and dressed like a whore and his life would have been ruined if she’d reported it and now this poor boy is up there having his life ruined for doing the same thing.

Or they’re thinking that they’d like to get away with it.

Or they’re thinking that the rapist should burn in hell for what he’s done.

There is no unbias here. You’re either sympathetic to the rapist or  you’re defensive of the victim. I’d say that on any jury for any rape trial, only a third or less of the jurors are actually impartial.

5. Teach self defense classes in high school gym class.

First of all, it’s a good way to keep fit and get strong. Second of all it could save a life in more than just a rape situation. Being able to break hold and stun an attacker long enough to run away is a critical life skill as far as I’m concerned.

6. Normalize the breast. Normalize breastfeeding.

You’ll never desexualize the breast. Men are visual by nature. We have to accept this. Sorry.

So let’s normalize the breast and breastfeeding. Teach men to compartmentalize. There is nothing sexual about feeding a baby. There is something sexual about a woman in a bikini or a low cut dress – but nothing really special. It’s just breasts. Women have them. Men have them. They all look different. Some are more appealing than others. Everyone likes something a little different.

This is important because we have to change the way we view clothing. I like wearing certain styles of clothes and some are revealing. I wear them for me. I wear them because they make me feel sexy and beautiful. I wear them for my husband sometimes. I don’t wear them for the random men at the store.

Do I care if those random men look at me? No. In fact since I’m going on 30 and have 2 kids it’s kind of a compliment if I can turn a few heads. I understand that most of those men aren’t going to be thinking about me later and if they are? Who really cares?

Looking costs me nothing. Looking requires nothing from me. I don’t have to stop or pose or respond.

The catcalling, the demands to smile, the demands to interact in any way? Sorry, I don’t owe you a single minute of my time. I don’t have to talk to strangers. I don’t have to smile when I’m thinking about my shopping list or my grandfather being in the hospital or my kids’ flu. And what I’m wearing? I’m wearing it for me, not to invite commentary from someone else.

So by all means, look. Appreciate. Admire. Lust. I don’t care. But don’t make demands on my time and expect me to respond just because of how I’m dressed or because of my gender.

7. Start calling out movies and books that romanticize abusive behaviours.

This is a long rant, so long that I covered it in another blog post that you can read here:

That’s the long, here’s the short:

There are a lot of ways to create drama and tension without abusive behaviours. There’s a lot of ways for men to pursue women without abusive behaviours. There is a fine line between not giving up and not taking no for an answer. And we need to make that line firmer. Which leads me to …

8. Teach women to say no when they mean no, maybe when they mean maybe, and yes when they mean yes. 

Playing hard to get. That’s what we call it. What it really is is confusing and counter productive.

Why do women play hard to get? Because they want men to prove that they really want a relationship. He asks for a date, she says no. He brings flowers. He brings chocolates. He asks about her sick grandmother. He asks for a date, she says yes.

Did she really mean no? Or did she mean try harder?

Dating has changed so our habits and mentalities need to change too. We need to encourage honesty and openness. We can’t teach boys that no means no when sometimes no really means try harder. How is he supposed to tell when she means one and when she means the other?

I’m not interested in you romantically but I wouldn’t mind catching coffee with you sometimes, you’re fun to talk to.

Sure, I really wanted to see that movie but I’m not interested in starting a dating relationship with anyone right now so let’s not make it a date, just a hang-out.

I’d like to see that movie but are you asking as a romantic date or just a hang-out with friends sort of thing?

Ask for clarity. Be honest. Be polite. Make no assumptions.

Be open to changes in relationships. Friendships can evolve into romance or they can evolve into something more like familial ties. (“I think of you as a brother”)

And can we get rid of the “friend zone” thing? It’s so demeaning. If I respect you and like you as a friend that something pretty special in its own right. I’m not dissing you. And I don’t owe every male in my life sex or romance – I never did.

“We’ve been hanging out a lot, want to step it up to an official date?”

“Oh, I’ve never really thought about you that way.”

That conversation doesn’t have to make things weird. It will be weird if she thinks he’s now staring at her all the time obsessing over getting into her pants. If he’s cool and respects her space why can’t they go on being friends? Maybe she changes her mind about him, maybe not.

Friendship is not a fast lane to sex. Women don’t owe men sex in return for their friendship. Casual hanging out is not dating and does not imply sex now or later or ever. Dating does not imply sex now or later or ever.

What would you add to this list of ways to stop RAPE?