My great aunt passed away this weekend. She was 82 years old. She was a very interesting lady. In addition to owning her own insurance company in Chicago until her death (she returned to our hometown in 2001) she also spent a lot of time as a missionary. Because she was always away, because we were a military family and because we lost my grandfather (her brother) back in 1975- we didn't get to spend a lot of time with her but until her own death- my grandmother kept us up on what my aunt was doing with her travels and it was always something pretty neat. What is interesting is that she lived a very full life- and she did it with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
We kids always knew she had arthritis. We knew that she had multiple joint replacements (all of her knuckles for crying out loud- amongst others!) and that she had the visual signs of arthritis. She never complained, she never made a big deal about it- it just was. It wasn't until I was diagnosed with RA myself that I was told that she also lived with the disease. I think it was mentioned because she is the only family member that has it and she is an "outer branch" on the tree- not a direct relative so that ties us in a little closer. I think we never heard about it prior to my diagnosis because she lived her life as if it were a fact of life. She was not a victim to her disease- it was just a part of who she is. I never thought about it until this weekend- but that must be where I get my own take on it from.
In the end- she was very ill and in a lot of pain. She chose her time to go by stopping eating on her own volition. She had chosen no extraordinary measures and my mom's sister was at the hospital Friday night to see her and sign the paperwork to call in hospice. Saturday morning, the hospice worker (who is a friend of the family) was there doing her evaluation when my aunt passed. I am grateful that she went peacefully and gracefully- the same way she lived her life. I am grateful that she is no longer in pain. She has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Arthritis Foundation. For my part- when I walk the Arthritis Walk in May in our hometown- I will be walking in her memory as well as for my own awareness efforts. It is the very least I can do.