My Father, Death with Dignity, and How We Choose

The Right To Die

Many beliefs have a back story. I’ve always supported death with dignity, physician assisted suicide, whatever you want to call it, in all of its various forms. When lobbying for such a bill you shouldn’t use the word “choice” because that may bring the abortion debate to mind, but it is about choice. And that’s because no two people are the same, and belief should not be imposed on others. At least not belief about how to die.
So what’s the story? There are several. When I was 21 and almost died after swine flu and lung surgery I came away with more and less fear. Less fear of death itself. More fear about being trapped between life and death—medically trapped, soul in a non-functioning body. When my 36 year old first husband Robert went into a coma and was brain dead but hooked to a respirator, a rabbi told me: don’t let this go on for too long. It’s dangerous for both the dying person and the people around him to be trapped in between worlds.
Someone else might have reacted differently to these situations. But they made me understand death is part of life, and coming to us all.
However, the real back story is about my dad. In his late 80s, having partially recovered from a major stroke, he had a series of small ones. He had trouble communicating, but was able to convey that he would no longer eat, drink, or take medication. He died about nine days later in hospice. This was a personal decision—not easy to put into practice, but not impossible either. He was a very strong willed man. I’ll never know if he’d planned this, or was just responding to the messages from his body, like a dying cat or dog who stops eating.
Was this good or bad? Good for him, terrifically hard on my mother who was in the early stages of dementia and living with him. Ambiguous for everyone. Would my dad have been happier with a doctor prescribed barbiturate? Would that have been quicker, less lonely, more supported? We’ll never know, as such things are still illegal in the state he lived in.
In any case, he didn’t have that choice. Maybe he would still have gone his own way—there was a certain resolve in that, and a kind of ease in letting nature take its course. But not everyone can do it.
What does it mean to want to die? I can’t understand that for others. Just for myself. I’d like to have some options.

***
In New Mexico, please support HB 171, End-of-Life Options Act. The bill would allow mentally capable, terminally ill adults the ability to request his/her medical provider to provide a prescription for medication that will end life in a peaceful manner.It is in committee, and will hopefully soon be on the legislative floor.

Poetry Posts: Looking for Poets, Artists, Curators

There are 10 poetry posts on Santa Fe Community College’s campus.

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Since I’ve retired, no one is maintaining them, so I think I’ll just continue to as a community project for the time being. But I need help!

I’m looking for:

a poet with ten poems
an editor who wants to create a suite of ten poems
an artist, collagist, collaborative group to create 10 pages of images plus poetry

Each post houses a simple standard piece of paper

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I’m going to put out a call in my on-line class and to the staff of Santa Fe Literary Review.
A selection from an e-zine would work. Each poem shoud be no more than one page.

Write me at msagan1035@aol.com to participate

You can mail me hard copy or a pdf would work too. It’s fun, and there’s audience. I’ll install the work. Interested?

DREAMERS By Lorenzo Atencio

DREAMERS
By Lorenzo Atencio

The last bell rings. I get all my books and get ready to leave when our science teacher Mr. Mays announces to the class:
“Okay, one last thing. I have good news. The regional chapter of the Math and Science Association will have this year’s competition in thirty days. If you are interested in entering a science project, stay for a few minutes after class. As always, the winner gets a full scholarship to the state university.”
Seven students remain sitting as the class room empties. I turn to look at them. There are four nerdy looking boys from a different class, and my unshakable nemesis Cheryl Soisbee and her best friend Carol Porter.
When all that remain are sitting, Mr. Mays says, “Please take a parental permission form to be signed by your parents or guardians. Get them back to me on Friday. We will discuss your projects then. If you don’t have any questions, you may leave.”
As we walk out, Cheryl gives me a sideways look and says to her friend, Carol, “I didn’t know that ESL students are allowed to submit a project in the science fair.”
“What’s ESL?” asks Carol.
“English as a Second Language. You never heard?” asks Cheryl. “Oh yeah. I just forgot – the M E X I C A N S” says Carol.
They both look at me with a smug smirk and laugh. I had told myself to ignore them no matter what they do, but I am so tired of their harassment that I snap at them, “What is your problem? What have I ever done to you?”
“You were born.” answers Cheryl without hesitation. “I don’t like that you act like you’re an American. Now you want to be in the science fair. You have to know how to speak English to be in the science fair. You should just go back where you came from.”
“I have as much right to enter the competition as you do.” I say.
Cheryl’s answer is quick and automatic, “Prove it.”
I say, “I’ll show you at the science fair.”
“You’re going to have to speak English there.” Cheryl and Carol laugh again as they turn to leave, then Cheryl adds, “Maybe we should call Immigration.”
I feel like telling her to go ahead and call Immigration, but I hear my father’s voice in my head warning me of the consequences of being deported. I have no memory of Oaxaca, Mexico. When I was 4 years old, my parents brought me and my 2 year old brother, Marcos, to America to follow their own American Dream: a job and an education for their children.
Now I am about to graduate from high school and I desperately want to attend college. I have to figure out how I’m going to get Papa’ and Mama’ to sign the permission form. I’ll discuss it with Marcos on our bus ride home. He’s always a good listener.
_________________
Marcos sums it up for me. “Luz, you know how Dad is about being deported. Always telling us to stay under the radar and don’t answer questions. He doesn’t want to go back to Oaxaca.”
“I can understand that. I just want to be an engineer. I have always wanted to be an engineer. My only chance and my only hope of being an engineer is to win the scholarship to the university.
“Just talk to him. He’ll probably say this not a good time to be visible with half the country screaming for deporting all undocumented immigrants.” says Marcos. “But you’ll know what to say.”
“Let’s hope that Mom and Dad say yes.”
Later that night, as Papá reads the newspaper after supper, I sit next to him at the table. When he notices me, I begin, “Papá, I would like to go to college and study to be an engineer. Do you think that will ever happen?”
Mr. Arenado is slow to answer his daughter. “Hija,, it would make me so proud and happy to see you become an engineer. But your mama and I don’t have the money to pay for college.”
“What if I found a way of going to college without it costing you anything?”
“Are you going to rob a bank? Or maybe you will win the lottery?” Dad raises an eyebrow. Mom
asks, “Como?”
I see an opening. “No silly. I can get it by doing extra school work. I can win a full scholarship to
the university.”
“No se. I don’t know. That sounds too easy. What are you not telling me?” asks Papá.
“Well, it’s a competition to see who can make the best science project. I have an idea to make electricity from the sun to turn a small fan. It’s clean energy that’s being looked at by big companies.”
“You just sign this consent form saying that you give me permission to enter the science project competition. It doesn’t cost you anything.”
Papa’ asks “If you win, you will be in the newspapers, right?”
“Well, Papá, being in the newspapers seems to be automatic, but I can say I want my privacy and not allow pictures of me. The school doesn’t know if I have documents and they don’t care.” I argue.” No one will even know that I’m undocumented or from Mexico.”
Papá says, “Hita, when they see you in person, they will see a pretty girl with dark skin color and Mayan features and know that you are from Mexico. There are many people that resent immigrants to the point of hate. Someone will ask questions. This is not the time to be visible.
Papá says even more emphatically, “I sure don’t want to go back to Oaxaca. There is nothing there. No jobs. No food. No way,”
“Papá. Think about it. We’ve been in this country for thirteen years. How many jobs have you had? I think you’ve worked at every restaurant in town. French, Chinese. Italian. Que no?”
“Don’t forget Mexican restaurants,” adds Papá.
Mama’ says, “I feel like there is an angry mob carrying torches looking for us to deport us. I don’t understand what we have done that is so bad. We aren’t suicide bombers or terrorists. We come to work. Ms. Lopez says the immigration laws are being used to steal our wages and homes and to break up our families. They call us ‘illegal’ because it sounds like ‘criminal.’”
“Stop. Stop. Wait a minute. Who is Ms. Lopez?” asks Papá.
“Ms. Lopez is our civics teacher. We discuss the Constitution and immigration issues in her class. I like her.”
“She says they are turning the screws – intentionally putting fear into our lives. Papá, we have to push back. Whenever we are told that we don’t belong in America, we need to boldly say ‘yes we do.’ I want to enter the science fair to show everyone that I have the right to enter that contest. And because I can win.”
“Ms. Lopez thinks deporting 11 million immigrants is either a bluff or the dumbest idea she’s heard. She says they aren’t going to deport 11 million people.
Marcos chimes in, “That would be 11 million Walmart shoppers. What does Walmart say about that?”
I answer emphatically, “Now is exactly the time to be visible – and vocal. We can’t just roll over and play dead. “Papa’, things are changing. There is a revolution coming. Not a revolution like Pancho Villa’s. A revolution of ideas.”
“Si. We’ve earned the right to stay in America. I have pledged my allegiance to America every day in school for twelve years. I believed it when I was told that all men are created equal, and I still do. You’ve been working hard. You both have given your time and labor and the owners have succeeded.“
“That also means we won’t be able to pay the loans at the credit union, or our car payment, or our trailer payments if we are deported. Uncle Sam would be shooting himself in the foot to deport us.” says Papá with a grin.
“Why haven’t they deported us sooner? She says if they were going to deport us they could have easily done it with the technology available today. They just want to scare us to squeeze more out of us.Undocumented workers turn the wheels of our economy by our hard work. Who will turn the wheels if we are kicked out?”
“Maybe there’s an App for that.” murmurs Marcos
Mamá adds, “I wonder if the first lady can fix breakfast? Anyway, I’m ready to buy a truck and load up our possessions and go back to my beautiful state of Oaxaca where my family is, if we have to.”
Papá ends the discussion. “Your mother and I need to talk this over. We’ll give you our answer in the morning.”
That night I dream of a priest wearing a cape of brightly colored feathers, standing in front of the sun. He smiles at me and the brilliance of his smile washes over me and magically transforms me into a hummingbird of green and blue. I harvest energy nectar from the sun and carry it to all things in the universe. And with that task comes the ability to fly in any direction, up or down, forward or backwards, fast or slow, or just hover. It gives me a feeling of power and freedom.
The next morning, I barely feel traces of the power to fly, but I remember the dream clearly. When I describe it to Papa’ he says, “You dreamed of Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god who causes the sun to rise. He is the strongest god of the Aztec religion. That is a very good omen.”
Then Papá looks at me and says, “Well, we agree that since we can’t give you college, we will not deprive you of an opportunity to go to college. We are willing to risk deportation because we agree that it’s time to come out and fight.”
Neither Marcos or I say anything until we walk out of the house and down the street. Then, Marcos raises his hand for a high-five. “You did it! I didn’t think you could ever change their minds.” I jump and slap his palm.
“Now I have to focus on my science project.”
As I think about creating electricity from the sun, I am reminded of last night’s dream. I know that Huitzilopoch is with me.
I exclaim to the universe, “I’m feeling like a hummingbird.”

A Visit to the NM Museum of Fine Art

the collagist’s
silver gelatin self-portrait—
a pair of scissors

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(I first saw Rodchenko, the Russian constructivist mentioned above, on a pale winter day in Iceland. The image is from his archive.)

a few notes between
sleep and waking, memory
of my father

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Agnes Pelton, Awakening (Memory of Father), 1943, oil on canvas.

eggs, toast
how many cafes and
cups of coffee

the plaza
has changed so much, so little
over the years
crossing it under snow, I
feel the same about myself

I Don’t Want To See Through Another Person’s Eyes Unless I Am Writing Fiction by Miriam Sagan

I Don’t Want To See Through Another Person’s Eyes Unless I Am Writing Fiction

Some of the national dialogue, or at least the tiny liberal bit I’m engaged in, is full of exhortations to try and see things from “others’” perspectives. But I don’t want to see the world through racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, homophobic eyes—thank you very much.
I already have enough trouble with myself.
It’s fine—necessary even—to see the beast within. Luckily I saw it young and early. I was in the SDS in college and I was on a picket line when a scab truck crashed through. I started beating on that windshield in a blind rage whose existence I was unaware of. I was only nineteen or so, but I thought to myself “Hey Mir, better pay attention. This isn’t good.” I thought of it later as “freeing the inner Nazi.” It isn’t good, and I’m betting most of us have been more plagued by it in our intimate relationships than anywhere else. I’ve thrown dishes. I’ve wanted to smack a child I said I would never smack.
A huge issue in writing fiction is the ability to develop characters “different” than the author. It’s more of an issue at the beginning, though. The deeper the practice of writing, the more likely it is that characters will have a life of their own. And that they will appear and act spontaneously.
However, I’m tormented by one of the characters in the novel I’m currently writing. She’s an individualist in a go-along-to-get-along group. And I like her. I’ve taken care of her! When she was an orphaned child, I found her foster mothers. I got her a dog. A passion in life. She even had a baby.
I felt betrayed when at the end of the story (I’m still on the first draft) she abandoned her pregnant daughter to walk alone into an unknown future, based on an obscure possibly incorrect apocalyptic vision. I tried to talk her down, but it didn’t worked.
So—is this character me, part of me, or…an actual character with her own destiny and karma. I’m hoping the latter. If she’s me, she’ll end up staying, and the novel will make less sense.
It’s pretty easy to write psycho killers. From Shakespeare’s Richard the Third to “Criminal Minds” the audience enjoys second hand sadism. Our level of identification may vary—but we count on our sense of justice and harmony being restored in short order.
The same cannot be said of our current world. I don’t want to see through the evil doer’s eyes today. I just want that evil stopped.

About Wonder by Sylvia Ramos Cruz

About Wonder

Wonder walks naked
comes unseen
as baby’s breath
on mother’s breast

She summons
chimeras—-scent
of sparkling fireflies
lighting the night

Her siren song beckons,
“Come back with me
to that untouched space
where innocence resides”

Everything nourishes her—
fields of carrots
and turnips turn
ro reveries

on earthworms and oceans,
atoms and elephants,
dark matter and
what matters

Forced to make a living
she would do so poorly—
she knocks quietly (not shyly)
waits to be asked in

Wonder dreams of slipping
into cobwebbed corners,
jumping out daily, shouting
“Look at THIS!”