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October 28, 2008

death of a friend: elena raymond

by sven at 11:05 pm

Dec 9, 1970 - Oct 14, 2008

My friend Elena Raymond. She died on October 14 at St. Vincent's Hospital. I held her hand as she breathed her last breath.

She had a genetic disorder that was progressively stealing her ability to control her muscles. At 37, she had a maximum of 5-10 years left to live, and even the basic activities of living were becoming hardships.

Many years ago she decided to commit suicide rather than wait out a slow, suffering death. We tried everything to improve her life... She saw therapists, doctors, and social workers. But the 24-hour care she required was going to bankrupt her, and soon she was going to lose her home and job. She decided the time had arrived.

The overdose she took didn't kill her immediately. She was in the hospital for six days, kept alive by a breathing tube. I participated in the decision to remove the tube. We were lucky: At the end, family and friends had a chance to say goodbye -- and she was conscious enough to respond.


I knew Lane for 15 years, having met during the aftermath of another friend's suicide. During the last few months I was very involved in the struggle to keep Lane going.

Before she made the earnest suicide attempt, she went to the hospital three times, afraid that she'd hurt herself. Each time, I helped plot what steps to take next when she got back home. I helped her to employ caregivers, make applications for funding, and was researching adult foster homes.

I always knew a time would arrive when she would need increased care -- and that this transition would trigger her plans for suicide. So, I was reasonably prepared to jump in and help when the tipping point finally arrived this year. The fact that I was so engaged with the final struggle has helped somewhat to inoculate me against shock, depression, and self-recrimination...

But this is hard, even so.

Tea cups! Tea cups! Tea cups!

I'm holding together. It's just about done now. We've emptied Lane's house. Friday we had the memorial service. I was the keynote speaker.

My favorite memories are from when Lane, myself, and Jackie did a road trip to Disneyland together. It was our big birthday present to Lane, a reward for her getting through a tough year after being dumped by her girlfriend. She loved the Alice in Wonderland tea cups ride. And we had a lot of fun when we caused one of the older Disney rides to stall -- twice!

Goodbye, Lane. You'll be missed.

posted by sven | October 28, 2008 11:05 PM | categories: miscellany