A Pillow of Moss

A Pillow of Moss

Betsey had shared her dear letter with family and me almost two years earlier.  In this letter she explained that she was beginning to feel “confused, anxious, fatigued and senile.”  Old age was her terminal illness, and she wanted to die with dignity and grace.  Her way.  The VSED way.

VSED, or Voluntary Stopping of Eating and Drinking, is legal nationwide. The U.S. Supreme Court in Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health (1990) stated that “a competent person would have a constitutionally protected right to refuse lifesaving hydration and nutrition.”  Betsey was going to die “without the pain, shock, and crisis that too often accompany human death” as her daughter Megan noted.  Indeed.

“I like this VSED process” she whispered one day during a state of fasting euphoria.  “It gives me the chance to come full circle on so many things.” 
In my last visit with Betsey, she made it clear that I should tell her story and educate people.  I do that here to honor her and because she was able to die before she lost control of her body and her mind.  I suspect many of us won’t be so lucky.

Her home funeral and natural burial were exquisitely beautiful as these events always are.  Her family and friends honored her with loving words and songs, and then laid her to rest on a bed of greenery and dried flowers.  Then, and this is the image that will always remain in my mind, her granddaughter Molly slowly walked forward to the grave, holding ever so delicately her offering of moss, a swatch of moss to serve as a pillow for her Grammy’s head.  Rest well, Betsey.

“You go from us
into a new becoming;
we rejoice for you and wish you an easy journey
into the Light.

The winds will speak to us of you,
the waters will mention your name;
snow and rain and fog, first light and last light,
all will remind us that you had
a certain way of Being
that was dear to us.

You go back to the land you came from
and on beyond.
We will watch for you,
from Time to Time. Amen.”