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Death in the era of modern medicine

The War Within

by Bonnie Tinker


The light was blurry when he woke to death. The room seemed like his home, but he couldn’t make out the details.
Slowly he moved his fingers, then his toes, and with great effort finally stood up. His wife was still sleeping and he reached over to wake her. They had planned this moment for years. Now they would go into eternity together. But his wife wouldn’t wake up.
His mind began to clear. He could see the furnishings in their home, his wife’s sleeping face. Then he knew what had happened.
He wasn’t dead. She was.
His mind was still fogged by the pills he’d taken, but he knew he had to try again, to get out of life and into eternity with his beloved wife. Then he remembered he hadn’t left a will giving the house to their grandkids. He remembered he needed a witness. He would write the will, sign it and then find a way to get back into eternity, to kill himself so he could join his wife.
His step-mother was busy when she received his call; she said she’d come by later that afternoon. No, he insisted, she had to come immediately. He couldn’t wait around, he had to get back into eternity or they would be separated forever.
He would ask his step-mother how to word the will, he’d sign it, she’d sign it and then he could go.
It took several hours for her to talk him back into life, to collect the scattered pieces of the story she finally put together but may never understand.
It starts like this: They had no health insurance.
They were both sick with long-term illnesses. They had no health insurance. They found medication at a free clinic but knew they would continue to deteriorate.
His wife fell and broke her wrist. They had no health insurance. She bandaged it and it healed painfully crooked. The clinic gave her pain medicine but they couldn’t fix her bones. Her bones were deteriorating from osteoporosis associated with their illness.
They had no health insurance.
They made a pact. When they could no longer bear the pain or the disability they would leave together. They started collecting the pain medications.
She fell again and shattered her shoulder. They had no health insurance. She delayed going to the clinic. Finally, somehow, someone X-rayed the shoulder. They told her they could pin it back together through surgery, but it might not work. It would remain very painful.
She had no health insurance.
They owned their home and had enough money to live on, but not to buy health insurance with their pre-existing conditions; they didn’t think they could go to a doctor and to the hospital.
They were sick. Their minds were clouded with drugs to mask the pain. They didn’t think anyone could help them. There were no answers, only pain.
In pain, they gathered all of the pills they had saved, went to the store and bought a cake and rented a video, and went home to travel together into eternity. They watched the movie, ate their treats, and munched on the pills like popcorn.
He wasn’t supposed to wake up, but he did. She wasn’t supposed to go into eternity without him, but she did. People aren’t supposed to live like this, and die like this, but they do.
Health care is not a political issue or a campaign promise. It is a human right.
They had no health insurance. This is a true story.

Bonnie Tinker is the Director of Love Makes A Family, Inc., a social change organization that educates and advocates for family equality, social justice and peace. She can be reached at



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Last Updated: May 22, 2009