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As you can imagine, preparing for major surgery brings up a lot of major life issues and questions. Even if your situation is like mine - voluntary surgery that should likely not end in death, just prolonged discomfort - you can't avoid facing those "what happens if something goes wrong" scenarios.
The first matter to weigh heavily on my mind was my cat, AppleButt. Who would she live with if something happened to me? Sure there are people who would take her in, but who would LOVE her as psychotically as me? I actually had a hard time deciding because there are a few potentials. In the end, I decided not to decide, figuring that if something happened, I had made it clear enough to these special people that my only postmortem concern was that AppleButt was loved and cared for.
With the cat all wrapped up, it quickly occurred to me that I have absolutely nothing else of value or interest that I needed to worry about. I own nothing but a car, which would have to be sold, and a few pieces of nothing-to-brag-about furniture. My landlord can screw himself as far as his apartment is concerned and I will probably die wearing my only slightly expensive jewelery, a pair of small diamond earrings, that can go to whoever wants them most.
My first instinct is to think that this very short inventory of my life's possessions makes my life pathetically unaccomplished. A 35 year old woman should have more evidence of her existence than a cat and a mid-range car, right? But then I stop being self pitying and realize that this is something to be proud of. My life is not formed by posessions but by the the people I've collected along the way. People who care deeply about me (confirmed for me again over the past week) and, if I died, would miss me a lot more than the used car dealer who was lucky enough to sell my car.
When the hospital paperwork arrived I realized I had neglected a whole other set of concerns. Who was going to take care of me if this surgery went wrong and I was incapacitated? Who would get to decide when I should stop fighting for survival? Who would decided to kill me? Yes, the good old Advance Directive.
I wanted to rush through it, put my mom down for everything, sign it and not think of it anymore. But I knew it was irresponsible to put that kind of pressure on a loved one who is probably too busy being upset about you and shouldn't have to make guesses about what you might want. A Jewish funeral? Do I want to live on a machine? What do I consider a life worth living? Plus, as much as I hate to think about it, my mom will likely not outlive me. Therefore, I needed to find someone else that I trust with my life.
At first this seemed like a rather simple matter. I have many dear friends who are as close to family as I'm going to get. I also have other family who I wouldn't want coming within 50 feet of the machines that are keeping me alive, let alone know my address to send me a card once a year. But who is it fair to ask?