What Will They Say When We’re Gone?


One year ago, several of us who blog in the “mental health, chronic illness and pain” sectors were anxiously asking one another if anyone had heard from Johnna, the author of the above-quoted blog. She hadn’t been heard from since the end of January. Not like her at all.

I had had a growing uncomfortable feeling that something was up. Not only was Johnna a prolific blogger and outspoken commenter, but she had texted me in January that she suspected her end was near, and she wanted information on how to execute an Advance Directive, to make certain that she wouldn’t be resuscitated if found unconscious.

I asked her if she had any relatives whom she could appoint as a Health Care Power of Attorney, to carry out her wishes if she was incapacitated. She wrote that she had a son, with whom she was not particularly close, and a sister, who she felt didn’t give a shit about her. (That’s what she felt, which is the important thing.)

A couple of months later, Johnna’s landlord broke open the door…just like in the story she had shared in one of her final posts in January, the one I’ve shared with you above. It gives me chills to read it now. It was prophetic.

Johnna was not an easy person. She told it like it was, often in the most unvarnished tones. She had strong opinions, and expressed them. She was usually right.

She was also kind and caring, as many of her eulogizers noted. If she didn’t hear from someone in her circle for a while, she reached out–sometimes in a rough-edged way, but you knew it was because she truly cared. It wasn’t superficial.

When news of Johnna’s death reached her family, they were, naturally, stricken with grief. Maybe they were stricken also with a little bit of remorse for writing her off, when she was suffering and grumpy….who knows. They did what families do when somebody dies: they dealt with her belongings, her apartment…and her body, which had lain there dead for already a couple of months before her overdue rent triggered the landlord to open the door and find it.


I read about a woman in Belgium who, having suffered alone from bipolar disorder into her sixtieth decade, managed to convince the euthanasia doctors to take her case. Her grown son, long estranged, was outraged that she would take it upon herself to go ahead and die without consulting him! All of a sudden, after she was gone, he missed his mama something terrible, and went after the doctors for neglecting to take him into counsel before sending her peacefully to sleep.

Upon reading this, my first thought was, “You stupid shit, did you forget something? When she was alive, she was just an embarrassment to you. Now that she’s at peace, you wish you could have kept her alive? For what? To suffer isolation and agony, so that you don’t have to feel guilty for neglecting her?”

As I get older and sicker the thought crosses my mind: what will they think when I’m gone? Will they be relieved? Will they feel angry that I wasn’t a normal participant in life? Or angry that I left without consulting them?

As I read my words, I realize that I don’t even know what “they” might think. My brain doesn’t work like theirs. And I’m glad.

I hope that if you’re reading this, you’ll stop and think for a moment about your loved ones who are suffering. Do they need anything? A kind word, a meal, a helping hand? Advocacy? Chocolate?

You will never regret reaching out. We can’t save everybody, but we can certainly make someone’s life a bit easier, maybe give someone a bit of happiness, by simply showing them we care.

And when they’re gone, we’ll have the comfort of knowing that at least we did something, rather than simply waiting to find out that their body has been discovered.

Treat Nazis Like You Treat Women