A few years ago, a friend of my family had a stroke. She lives in a nursing home. She's not a babbling idiot, or a vegetable. She's conscious, really. But she's also trapped in her own body. You can see her struggle to speak, to find the right word, to simply express the desire to eat or look out the window. Her body is a prison for her real self.

I won't let that happen to my mother. Or, for that matter, my father.

I've made a promise to that effect to my mother. If she's ever in a condition where her ability to function is severely compromised, I'm to do something, anything, to help her die. Even just a pillow over her face for a while. It's actually become a running joke, among just us. When she gets bitchy, or cranky, I say "The pillow's getting closer, Mom." There's a hint of unease, because of the strong possibility, due to her overall health, that someday I will need to cause her to stop breathing.

I won't consider myself guilty of murder. I'll have stopped something she would have hated. But I'll still cry.

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