Physician-assisted death is legal here and I’m grateful for it. Death with Dignity requires a terminal diagnosis by two doctors, allowing for a very large dosage of barbiturate to be prescribed, a medication sometimes referred to as a cocktail.
My mother-in-law Jerene and I shared a deep appreciation for a more classic cocktail, the Manhattan. Jerene said she preferred those that I made, which I cherished, but I cherished even more the way she always asked me to make her one. We’d go there for dinner and she’d greet me with, “Jonathan, I think you should check out the freezer.” A pair of Manhattan glasses would be nestled in the ice. That was her way. She made small things clever and fun.
When it was clear that the return of her cancer would not only be terminal but also increasingly debilitating, she chose the path of Death with Dignity. She learned that the medication leaves a medicinal taste in your mouth, so when she prepared herself and the family, picked a day and time, she asked if I would make her a Manhattan to chase it down.
I made a tray of them. We all joined in - my wife and I, her brother, her aunt, her sober father, even the Death with Dignity volunteer witness would honor Jerene with a sip. Regardless of my track record, I was trembling as I made them. It seemed to take forever. As it was, Jerene’s moment proceeded very lovingly and rather quickly. And I don’t recall if it was my best Manhattan or just a good one. What matters is we all shared a taste, one that she loved.
Stories like this anchor me to Seattle. I’m not from here, but this is where I’m living my life.