Waiting calmly to die

"So I'm stuck with it," Berger said, and she refuses to pop heavy-duty painkillers.

The meds would cost $700 a month, she said, and she considers that an outrage. Plus, she's already forgetting things, and doesn't want to be further addled by drugs.

So what's she going to do about all of this?

Berger said she has no exit plan. She often goes to sleep telling herself it's OK if she "drifts into the twilight," and if she knew of a way to help things along, she's ready.

"I would like to leave. I just think it's enough. I mean, you don't live forever, and to live life like this is not fun."

I told Berger I admired her courage, but she scoffed.

"What frightens me most is not being able to do things for myself."

Berger told me she doesn't know what to expect in death.

"I hope to see my mother and father, because I miss them terribly."

But what if there's nothing?

"What difference will it make at that point?" she asked.

I sat there smiling, drinking coffee and admiring this woman who bakes a great chocolate cookie.

"You think I'm wacko, don't you?" she said.

Not at all. I hope to have as healthy an attitude about death when I feel it closing in.

"I have my entire funeral planned out," Berger said, describing a small, family ceremony. "I even have the music picked out."

She led me into another room and retrieved a stack of CDs she'd set aside, "so my family doesn't have to go looking for them."

When Polly Berger finally shuffles off this mortal coil, and her family celebrates her life and spirit, the entertainment will be provided by Tony Bennett, Perry Como, Judy Garland, Bette Midler, Carly Simon, Melissa Etheridge and Sister Sledge, who will sing "We Are Family."

Don't feel sorry for her, Berger said, because life has been good.

"Oh, please, no. I'm so way ahead of this game."



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