Opening Words from Sun. April 14 by Eleanor Sullivan

We all know we’re going to die…eventually. Most of us, most of the time, push the thought away. After all. we can do little about its inevitability. We try to eat healthy, exercise moderately (shrug), and sluff off stress. Besides, it seems a long way in the future…no matter how old we are.

But I was faced with an opportunity to come close.

After an extended trip to Europe, all I wanted to do was sleep. But at some point, I must have realized I was in trouble and texted a friend (I don’t recall doing so). Fortunately, she was at home and came immediately.

An ambulance ride later landed me in the hospital emergency room. A physician’s assistant came in, put her hands on her hips, and said, “you have kidney failure and you did it to yourself!” I looked at my granddaughter and said, “not on purpose!”

There seemed to be a lot of worried looks from doctors, nurses, and my family, but for me…I felt strangely peaceful.

My mind roamed back to a recent birthday party (a BIG birthday, by the way). My family—all 5 of my kids, 6 of my 8 grandchildren, and various siblings and spouses—surprised me… by hosting the party a month early.

I thought about my work. I’d been a nurse, a professor and a university dean. I’d written textbooks, mystery fiction, and even one play.

I’d traveled to every place in the world I wanted to see.

I’d left a legacy of people, friends and family alike.

And my children. Everyone was grown. Even the youngest grandchild is graduating high school next month.

My physician told me I’d need several months to recover. After all, she said, I’d been within 24 hours of death. She’s told me since she didn’t expect me to recover completely. But I have.

Now, what I know for sure—while I hope it doesn’t come anytime soon, I am reassured that without pain, dying is incredibly peaceful.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.