I have recently been reminded how everything in our lives effects our work as artists.
I am approaching the mid-point in directing Ghosts.
And, suddenly, I learn my mother is being rushed to the hospital. She is having a heart attack.
Drop everything and rush to the hospital. Cancel rehearsal that night and the next-- we had a 3 day break scheduled after that, so we could wait and see . . .
At the hospital, helping my mom fill out in take paperwork-- although do we call it paper work any more? It's all on the computer.
We are asked about her advanced directive, or living will, or durable power of attorney for health care? Which she has, and she tells me where to find it, and I go the next day and find it.
The first person listed as holding this durable power of attorney for health care is my mom's significant other, now deceased. The nurse asks me to cross out his name, write "deceased" and initial.
Which I do.
I am now the person named to hold the durable power of attorney for health care. I am the one to speak for my mother, to see that her wishes are known, if she cannot speak for herself.
The nurse takes the copy I have given her and adds it to my mother's chart.
A few minutes later, as my mom is trying to nap, the nurse asks me to come into the hall. I do. She draws my attention to the section on "DNR"- Do Not Resuscitate. Under certain conditions, it is my mother's wish is that no extreme measures be taken to extend her life. If her condition were to be one where there was no reasonable hope of recovery -- this is all carefully defined-- then, my mother's wish is that she be allowed to die.
The nurse says that there are specific papers that are usually drawn up in this case and added to the chart. She asks, should she draw up these papers?
I say, let me think a minute.
And I go and think.
I ask her to wait, please. My brother is in Oregon, stuck on a business trip. I don't want to complete the paper work while my brother is so far away.
Nothing is imminent. (In fact, the good news for this episode is that a week later, my mom is back home.) We can wait.
But I know, in future, this is quite possibly a decision I will have to face.
And, suddenly, Helen Alving's pain and wrenching decision at the end of Ghosts is a little less melodramatic. It is much more serious.
As serious as a heart attack.