Five. That’s how many friends and relatives of mine have died in the past nine months. It feels weird, to see them dropping like flies, one after the other.

It makes you wonder who’s next

Years ago, my 86-year-old Aunt Babe told me, “The worst thing about aging is that everybody dies on you.” At the time I thought, less than sympathetically, Well, that’s what happens when you get old. As if she brought it on herself. Now it’s my turn.

My cousin Patti died two days ago, after a short, miserable battle with cancer. I won’t describe her suffering but she had a hard last few years, the kind we all dread.

We all want to die peacefully in our sleep, right? Or quickly, while enjoying our favorite pastime. Let me keel over while camped near friends who will take care of my dog and the details. Let me drop dead, Lord, with minimal discomfort. 

It’s true: I am a coward

Talking about all this with a close friend the other day, she made me promise to give her “the black pill,” whatever that is, when her time comes and the pain is too much. “I’ll get one,” she said when I asked if she had one. I made her promise to do the same for me. We swore to take care of each other in our dotage. Then I wondered, Who takes care of the one left behind?

A thread in a private FaceBook group recently bemoaned the problem of who will take care of us vandwellers when we can’t take care of ourselves–after surgery, for example. We are a fast-aging demographic. Many of us don’t have family to fall back on due to lack of resources, estrangement, or other reasons.

It got me thinking.

Why not agree to take care of each other?

We already help out in emergencies. When Jay’s COPD forced him off the road into a Lake Havasu City hospital last November, Lesa drove his partner, Margie, to be with him, and kept vigil with her until he died a few days later.

A few months later, while Steve waited for a heart transplant in Salt Lake City, Wayne took care of his trailer and things while Steve’s sister took his beautiful dog, Spike. Steve passed before he could get his new heart.

When I was carried by ambulance last year out of the desert to surgery and a two-week recovery in a nursing home, nearby friends took care of Scout until my son could arrive from San Diego to take her home with him.

When I had double vision that turned out to be a stroke last March, friends Linda and Gary drove me 25 miles to an ER.

This is the informal, spontaneous generosity of a loose network of friends.

Why not tighten that network?

We could make private pacts with each other. You take care of me and I’ll take care of you. Quid pro quo. True, most of us don’t have stick-and-brick houses where a sick vandweller could convalesce, but we could walk the dog, as my friends did last year, or bring soup as another friend did when I had altitude sickness in New Mexico three years ago. We can watch over each other in times of need, not by chance but by agreement.

Just a thought.

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  • Linda Buie

    Fear is the thing that leads us to want to control it. Trust that this will happen as it already has in the past. It will.

  • Devan Winters

    I wonder and worry about this as well. What a fantastical idea you have to ease that worry! Where’s the sign up sheet?

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