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He Shared His Death with Me
by Masha Wasson Britten
Originally published in The Sacred Mushroom Seeker
It was something of a fluke that he happened to be with me at the end. We always tried to be together on New Year's Eve, the anniversary of my mother's death in 1958. But Christmas was a holiday we did not usually spend together..... about 11:00 Tuesday evening, 23 December, I went back to my father's room to check on him.

He told me he was cold, and I noticed that his skin was very gray--signs of possible heart failure. I therefore hurried to another room to call for the ambulance. Meanwhile, my son, who has medical training, stayed with him.

I was finishing the phone call when my children called me back into his room. My father was having a grand mal seizure. There was nothing I could do for him but hold him. He died in my arms.

When the ambulance arrived the medics wanted to try to revive him using cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, which my father had explicitly stated should not be attempted. I had a difficult time preventing them from doing it. But at last, once again, my father's will prevailed.

He died of a heart attack or massive stroke or both. It was painful to be with him at the end--but also wonderful, for otherwise he would have died alone.

In accordance with his wishes, my father was cremated and interred with his brother's remains in the columbarium of the Washington Cathedral, on 2 January 1987. The lovely, simple ceremony, held in the Bethlehem Chapel, included a Nunc Dimittis sung a cappella by the boys' choir; this was also as he had requested.

as written by Masha Wasson Britten, from The Sacred Mushroom Seeker, Essays for R. Gordon Wasson edited by Thomas J. Riedlinger