I am certain that this is something that does happen, as I read it occasionally in the obituaries. I am also aware that death in and of itself isn't something that usually holds an easily reached peace in most circumstances. But as I sit here next to my mother, who is on her second day under hospice care and her 11th day fighting death, I realize that I can't remember a time that my family has been afforded the experience of the title of this blog post.
My maternal grandfather died at the hospital, of congestive heart failure. They had just called to tell us he was going to be released to come home. Granted we knew he wasn't going to live very long, but he wanted to be at home and they were making that happen. Shortly after hanging up the phone, he died there, alone, without family, in his hospital room.
My paternal grandfather died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital after suffering a stroke as he waited outside the grocery store for my grandmother to return. My paternal grandmother died in a nursing home after a much too long battle with alzheimer's.
My maternal grandmother probably would have been likely to attain a peaceful passing as I'm sure she would have lived to be 100, but instead, while she died at home, it was not surrounded by family, and it was at the hands of someone who beat the life out of her. And three short months after bearing witness to the aftermath of this unfortunate scene, my father died alone in a hospital bed of a blood infection that was left to him after enduring a ridiculous amount of chemotherapy that may possibly have been shrinking his cancer, but surely left his body unable to fight anything else.
My uncle suffered a heart attack upon waking one morning. So, he may have been at home, but it was alone and not peaceful.
I could go back further to the great great grandmother who fell down my basement steps during her fourth pregnancy and both she and the baby died. She may have been at home, with family (including a 6 year old daughter who never forgot asking the doctor if he was going to save her mama) but it sure doesn't sound like it was peaceful for anyone.
There is also my grandmothers uncle Coonie, who was certainly at home surrounded by family as they enjoyed a dinner together, but getting up and going outside to cough up blood from black lung until he died in his wifes arms isn't exactly peaceful either.
As I lay here next to my mother, watching her go through her own passage to death, I can't help but wonder how one experiences a peaceful passing. Because I made a choice to allow my mother to have that, rather than to be sentenced to a life trapped inside her brain unable to experience any kind of life worth living. I made the choice to end her ultimate suffering, which would leave her bedridden in a nursing home, where she has told me multiple times that she would never want to be. And this process has been far from "peaceful", but no matter how painful it is for me, I can at least guarantee that she will have the presence of her loving family with her.
Perhaps another time I will be shown that "peacefully at home surrounded by their family" really does exist.