*This is the first of four essays dealing with the death of a parent

We met in August 2014 in Bar Harbor in a hotel room overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Even though he was getting dialysis twice a week for end stage kidney failure and was noticeably weak, he braved the trip from Florida. He knew it would be his last time in Maine, one of his favorite places.

            “When the doctor tells me I have to go on dialysis three times a week, I’ll be getting off completely,” Dad said.

            My sister, brother and I nodded as if we immediately comprehended what he was saying when in fact we had no idea.

            “I should die about two weeks later. I’ll go into a coma and I won’t know anything. It’s one of the better ways to die, in fact.”

            My father was a proud man who hated old people because it reminded him that he was one too. He refused to look in the mirror. He loved life for all it had given him until he turned seventy-five and, after an operation to remove a tumor from his kidney, life turned against him. Then, he resented everything about it.

            “I never wanted this,” he said.

            I knew what he was saying without the words. He never wanted to be sick, to be feeble, to be the man who had to insert a catheter to urinate, who couldn’t contain his bowels, who had to rely on others for basic help.

            He hated, above all, the loss of control.

            So when he announced he would be getting off dialysis, I wasn’t surprised.

            “I think it will be around October,” he told us.

            We nodded, not offering words of affection or encouragement since dad wasn’t the type of man who responded well to sympathy or who craved approval, he only wanted to be heard.

            October came and went, as did the New Year. Dad was still with us, getting weaker and going to dialysis twice a week. His wife, Beverly, was an amazing caregiver, staying on top of Dad’s meds, taking him to doctors’ appointments, remaining by his side every step of the way.

            Last week, Dad informed us that he had chosen a day. April 6th would be his last dialysis.

            I cleared my calendar for the month of April. It seemed like a silly action to take but I didn’t know what else to do to prepare for my father’s death at his own choosing. It’s not suicide, the experts say, because he will be dying of natural causes: end stage renal failure. He is only getting off life support, they explain in a pamphlet called “Choosing to End Dialysis”.

            Choosing to die has always been a hot issue. Dr. Jack Kevorkian made a major impact on the right to die movement, spending years in prison after being convicted of manslaughter in the deaths of about 130 terminally ill people. Brittany Maynard moved to Oregon so she could legally end her life after being diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor. Christie White is suing the State of California for the right to die at home since she doesn’t want to have to move to another state to end her life after battling cancer for years.

            And now, there is my father who is choosing to die with dignity. His doctor will not be tried for manslaughter. He does not have to move to another state to refuse dialysis. He does not have to sue anybody for the right to voluntarily end his life. His wife, myself and my siblings will not get in any legal trouble for not forcing him to continue on life support. He simply has to stop showing up at DaVita.

            My sister, brother and I are extremely sad but we support his decision. His wife is losing her husband and has remained a champion as the finish line nears. We’re spending as much time with him as we can. It’s hard to watch. Dad has little quality of life. One lung has collapsed. His skin is covered with red blotches. Body fat is dripping off of him. His eyes are so watery he can barely take part in his favorite pastime, reading. This decision is very difficult for him but it is the one he has made. When he dies is the last thing he can control.

            Dad will die in April. My calendar is clear.**

**Dad elected to make March 20th his last day of dialysis. He died on April 14, 2015.

joanne lewis

When Joanne Lewis is not practicing law, she is writing. She pens murder mysteries, historical fiction and historical fantasy books and is the author of several award-winning novels. As an author, she hopes to entertain, to educate, and perhaps to enlighten. As an attorney, she is most proud of her work as an assistant state attorney and as a guardian ad litem representing the best interests of children.

Her books are available on Kindle, as paperbacks, and as audio books.

Her latest release is Bee King, a historical novel that is about the first person in the United States diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and takes place from the start of the Civil War until 1910. Just like the people who inhabited Five Points in lower Manhattan during the 1800s and the turn of the century, Bee King traverses the pentagonal streets where abolitionists battled copperheads, immigrants clashed among social, religious and political strife, and doctors and psychologists strained to help patients. Told in Five Points (sections), Bee King is dramatized through conventional literary devices as well as through newspaper articles, a manifesto, and other non-traditional tools.

The Forbidden trilogy consists of the novels: Forbidden Room, Forbidden Night, and Forbidden Horses. Forbidden Room is her best-selling novel.

In Forbidden Room, the first book in the Forbidden trilogy, new attorney Michael Tucker has few clients, yearns to be like his famous grandmother and cannot afford to move out of his parents' home. Sara Goldstein is an heiress accused of killing her uncle. When Sara hires Michael, he gets the chance to defend an innocent person, a beautiful lover and notoriety like his grandmother. But is it more than he asked for? Is Sara innocent or is she a murderer?

Forbidden Night, the second book in the Forbidden trilogy, delves further into Michael and Sara’s complicated relationship, as well as into Soldier Boy’s psyche, into their family histories, and into the creation of the carousel horses. The question posed in Forbidden Room, the first book of the Forbidden trilogy—Is Sara innocent or is she a murderer—is answered.

Forbidden Horses, the final book in the Forbidden trilogy, travels to the eighteenth century and takes place in Austria to reveal the troubled history of the creation of the carousel horses.

Michelangelo & Me is a series of five novellas in the genre of historical fantasy.

In the first book of the series, Michelangelo & the Morgue, seventeen-year-old Michelangelo defies religious and political powers in order to capture a serial killer who is murdering the artists of Florence. In Sleeping Cupid, the second book, Michelangelo’s believed-to-be lost statue narrates his journey from fifteenth century Florence, Italy until the present day where he lives in an attic in a sleepy Florida town. Future books in the anthology include Space Between, School of the World and Michelangelo & Me.

The Lantern is a historical novel about a modern-day woman's search to find a girl from 15th century Florence, Italy who dared to enter the competition to build the lantern on top of Brunelleschi's dome. Across time and space, three lives collide as they battle abuse, disease, fear and prejudice in pursuit of their dreams. Along the way, they intersect with some of the most famous figures of the Renaissance including members of the Medici, Filippo Brunelleschi, Donatello and a young Michelangelo.

Wicked Good, a different kind of love story, begins in Bangor, Maine. Fifteen-year-old Rory is not defined by his diagnoses of Asperger's syndrome and Bipolar Disorder and lives life to the fullest. Archer, his adoptive mother, is Rory's biggest fan. Rory searches for his birth parents to find out why he is the way he is. He discovers his roots in Salem, Massachusetts where the Salem Witch Trials had occurred, and in Gloucester, Massachusetts where fishermen went down with the Andrea Gail during the Perfect Storm. He also learns his true roots are closest to his home in Bangor. As Rory discovers truths about himself, Archer learns about herself too.

Make Your Own Luck is the unforgettable and moving novel of Remy Summer Woods, a young attorney who refuses to believe thirteen-year-old Bonita Pickney killed her father, Patrick Pickney. Remy risks her relationship with her own father as well as her life to prove Bonita's innocence. Along with learning what happened the night Patrick was murdered, Remy discovers hard truths about her family and herself.

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