Thank you for inviting me here today. I’m going to share a very personal story with you about Love, Courage and Choice.
Toward the end of 2011, my husband, Alan, was diagnosed with both Alzheimer’s disease and laryngeal cancer. Ultimately he decided to voluntarily stop eating and drinking as a peaceful means to the end of his life. Sometimes I will refer to this process as VSED, voluntary stopping eating and drinking. He died one month shy of his 77th birthday. So he is Not Here By Choice.
A few weeks before he stopped eating and drinking, he was sitting at the breakfast table. I glanced over at him and noticed that he was crying. I said, “Honey, what are you feeling? He said, “I’m not afraid of dying. I’ve lived a good life, but I want everyone to know about VSED.”
I spontaneously replied, “You’ll just have to trust that I’ll be your vehicle.” And here I am today sharing this exact story with you.
I’m going to tell you about my husband and the five unusual choices he made during the last year-and-a-half of his life.
Alan was a very special man. I never met anyone who didn’t like him. He loved to learn and was very curious. He was a good musician and played improvisational jazz piano since he was young. He was a Harvard graduate and worked with computers for his career. For 12 years, we worked together in our own business and technology consulting partnership.
We had a wonderful marriage for 26 years. One of my favorite things of our relationship was our ability to laugh at ourselves and each other. For many years, rarely did a day go by where we didn’t have a deep belly laugh. We were best friends.
In 2007, we both noticed subtle cognitive changes in Alan. He was examined in 2007 and 2009, but the neuropsychologist could find no disease. For four years, we went through a medical maze, going from specialist to specialist trying to find out why Alan didn’t feel well and had such increasing fatigue.