The Living Will

My daughter's will may be greater than my own...

By Diane Payne
After watching Terri Schiavo lying on her death bed with protestors outside her room as part of the nightly news on TV, I finally picked up a copy of the Living Will and informed my thirteen-year-old daughter that she would be in charge of my death request since it’s just the two of us. “Don’t prolong my death if I’m in a vegetative state,” I explained. “If something happens and I end up basically dead, please do whatever it requires to make sure I end up dead. I don’t want you visiting me in a hospice for twenty years.” “You better be nice to me,” she willfully smirked. “Nice?” Ania laughed and laughed, proud to have the upper hand. It finally dawned on me how another person could force someone to stay alive out of cruelty, not compassion, hope, or some form of faith, but because you wronged someone, and how in the end, my wishes may not matter because it’s the living who will decide, not the almost dead. I thought about making a bribe by explaining the meaning of beneficiary and how she is the only person benefiting from that pittance of an inheritance, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to give her any ideas after hearing that wicked laugh. The next day after we had this discussion, Schiavo died, and Ania said, “Isn’t it weird? We were just talking about her and your will.” I realized our conversation must have been on her mind but didn’t expect a recant about the nice rule. I remember being thirteen, and the parental power that comes with that age. I showed her the will and said I had added a few things by the further instructions section. “Do whatever it requires to help me end my life peacefully, free of media, politicians, and religious zealots,” Ania read. She rolled her eyes at me, then said, “That doesn’t sound very nice.” “Nice!” I threw up my arms hoping it’d have the same effect as rolling the eyes. Once more, she did that frightening laugh. “The living will be nice,” I said as she continued laughing while walking to her room. “Get it, living will and be nice,” I muttered to myself unsure how things will really turn out in the end.

Diane Payne has been seen in Philosophical Mother, Hip Mama, and numerous other magazines. Diane teaches creative writing classes at University of Arkansas-Monticello.

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"Assert your right to make a few mistakes. If people can't accept your imperfections, that's their fault." -- Dr. David M. Burns