Ruth’s Story

Ruth’s Story – told by Ann Roberts

My cousin Ruthie was very special, not only to me but also to all those around her. She was a kind person to whom everyone was drawn and made friends wherever she traveled. She was a loving wife for 57 years, mother of two, and grandmother of four.

Ruthie and I had grown up together in the same home for two years after my mother died shortly after my 6th birthday. Although Ruthie was my senior by seven years, she always was kind and patient with me. She became my much adored older sister. Picture of Ruth and her sister

Ruthie and I remained close, even after my dad remarried and we moved away. As married adults, living a six hour drive from each other, we still spent holidays and vacation time together. Our children, who were also very close, have the same warm family memories that Ruthie and I shared.

Ruthie, a caregiver by nature, was always concerned about the health and welfare of others before her own. She had been experiencing some stomach pains which she put on the back burner while caring for her family. By the time she did see a doctor she was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. Ruthie was a fighter, had a high threshold for pain, and was determined to beat this. She spent almost a year shuffling between hospital, rehab, and long term care facility during this fight. 

Towards the end, when all treatment stopped because her body could no longer tolerate the chemo, she was placed in hospice.  Even while her body was wracked with pain, she was more worried about her family than herself. She asked me to be her spoke person when she might not be able to express her wishes so that her husband and children would not carry that burden. She had me promise that her husband, who she felt would not be capable of living alone due to declining physical and mental health, would be well cared for. 

She spoke to each of her grandchildren and they promised her they would remember the life’s lessons she had instilled in them and would always remain close. And, of course, she had personal chats with her husband, children and brother for her last good byes.

Ruthie opted, after saying goodbye to each of us, to go off all food and water to hasten her death. She wished to be on enough pain medication to sleep and peacefully pass away. We were told by hospice that she would be given enough morphine to ensure her wishes were carried out. Sadly it never happened as promised.

After food and water are denied organs begin to shut down and the person will typically pass in four to seven days. Ruthie’s organs did start to shut down in a few days which resulted in excruciating pain. Morphine was never increased enough to mask the pain. She would squeeze may hand and cry out that she just wanted to die. After 10 days, finally, morphine was administered every hour and she did sleep.  She passed the next day - day eleven.

I will always live with the knowledge that I was unable to fulfill my promise. This kind gentle soul died a horrific painful death.  Had a Death With Dignity Law been available, Ruthie would have said her goodbyes and, with her last sip of water, taken prescription pills and peacefully slipped away.