The dying in California deserve a better ending

My poor grandma. After 92 years on this earth, she spent her final days in hospice care, under a spell of powerful pain medications, deprived of food and water, unconscious (and hopefully not in a lot of pain), waiting for her time to come. Waiting to die. For days. For more than a week.

Awful. That's how I felt while sitting with her in a hospital room in nearby Auburn this past summer. Staying by my mom and family's sides past midnight. Watching my grandma ease toward death. For days. For more than a week.

It was difficult to visualize the grandma who'd bring me microwaved warm milk and Nilla Wafer cookies before bed when I was a kid. Who'd refer to her couch as a “Chesterfield”—and would warn me to never put my feet on said Chesterfield. Ever. Who'd sip gin and tonics while watching Joe Montana lead the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl championships. And who never forgot your birthday.

Grandma—we actually called her Nonnie, since her parents hailed from the old country—was a stubborn single mom with the gentlest heart. I think about her life and the memories are warm.

But then there is the memory of her final weeks with us: awful.

It makes zero sense that my grandma didn't have the right to die on her own terms. That she was forced to live comatose for hundreds of hours as whatever it is that gives us soul slowly departed.

That's why Melinda Welsh's cover story this week, titled “How to die in California” (page 14), is crucial: The Golden State needs to let its residents die with dignity. For the sake of the dying, and also their families. We deserve a better ending.