As they say, death comes in threes…

The third was a call that I had been expecting for many years, in some regards hoping for…hearing that my Grandmother had died.

We lost her five years ago to the affects of Alzheimer’s…making it part of “The Longest Goodbye.”

I don’t know if you are ever really ready, despite the intellectualizing, and all of the preparation. My aunt and uncle did not want to have a service. We may do something at Christmas, a moment of silence, perhaps getting a plant, but it seemed that I needed to do something more.

My coping, as always, was turning to poetry. For the first time I managed to get down on paper, a lot of my feelings about death and having supervised many deaths as a physician.

So to Grandma, Mildred Dyer, my last remaining Grandparent…who died December 9, 1998.

My Wish For You

Life brought you many challenges
many struggles and many hardships.
The years left their marks as lines on your face
and gray-hues colored your hair.
The sun weathered your skin
adding freckles from age.
Your mind slipped into it’s own world
where few could reach you,
As time took it’s toll.

We lost you years before
to the disease that steals the mind
and leaves behind the body to slowly fade,
with the passage of time.
A disease known as “the longest goodbye.”
The person we once knew,
the one I called “Grandmother,”
was lost in a haze
of mixed up neurons and faulty wiring.
It became impossible to learn anything new
leaving you unaware of the second just past
and unable to project a second into the future.
Life was now lived moment to moment, instant to instant,
happy lost in old memories
and brief recollections.

And ever so often and ever so briefly
a spark of recognition.
The person who once was
now hidden behind the confusion
emerging to make herself known.
As a physician trained to save and prolong life
with so many instances of having to do “everything”
obliging by the family’s wishes,
I often wondered:
“Who are we to presume we are more powerful,
more knowledgeable, more omnipotent
than the forces of nature.”
To hear frail bones crack
under the pressure of the CODE
And watch as the signs of life ebb away
while the team valiantly endeavors
in a futile attempt to turn back the hands of time.
I see this struggle to stop the inevitable death
over and over again
and it is not one that I would wish
for my patients, my family or my loved ones.

My wish for you
in this season of goodwill towards men
and for every day since we “lost” you
Is for a peaceful death,
a good death
a death of days gone by.
For you to slip away
without fanfare
without sirens
without shouting
without pain
and without CODES
And find a rest without waking.

This year we both got our wish for Christmas.
You left us with serenity and dignity
quietly and peacefully in your sleep,
The way you had asked to go.

Kirsti Dyer, MD, MS
Copyright 1997-8 by Journey of Hearts A Healing Place in CyberSpace™.


  • Journey of Hearts A Healing Place in CyberSpace™ is the creation of physician, Dr. Kirsti A. Dyer, with contributions from many colleagues, friends, and website visitors. It is the combined effort of those who have experienced many different types of losses. Empowering Caregivers featured the site in the Spotlight last month because of the value it brings to all those who visit.

    The website is for anyone who has ever experienced a loss or a significant life changes. It is well-known that losses and changes can impact a person's life--forever. The losses referred to on this site can be acute or long-standing and can result in feelings of grief, stress, depression, loneliness or helplessness.