"She Sat on a Jury, Told Her Family About It, and 10 Years Later Her Mother Chose to Exit," by Shana Morales

“Papa Bob” and Shana’s mother, Marianne, surrounded by the Morales family (l-r): sisters Elena and Ashley, son Joey, husband Joseph, and Shana. The photo was taken in 2017 before Bob became seriously ill.

My name is Shana Morales, and in 2011, I was called to be a juror for a case regarding Final Exit Network in Phoenix. The trial lasted months, and at the end, the jury room was not a good place to be.

Some of the jury felt very strongly about suicide, assisted or otherwise, and were unable to detach their personal beliefs from facts in front of them. I, while not a proponent of suicide by any means, viewed it more as an issue of sharing knowledge – then it becomes personal choice.

In the end, we were able to acquit one FEN defendant, and then it got really bad. A juror was seen crying in the hallway (that was me) after the judge heard loud yelling from several members and declared a “hung jury” on the second defendant.

It was traumatic for me as a juror, and I cannot imagine what it was like for those directly involved.

During the trial, I told my family members about Final Exit Network, and my mother seemed to take a special interest – but she was healthy, and I thought nothing of it.

Fast forward to 2018 when “Papa Bob,” the love of my mother’s life, started to decline due to heart issues and COPD. The last months of Bob’s life were extremely  painful for both him and my mother, he in obvious physical distress, and her having to watch him go in and out of hospitals, struggling to breathe, knowing that there was nothing she could do to ease his suffering.

After Papa passed, Mom admitted to becoming obsessed with controlling her own death and started to attend local FEN chapter meetings. She was the amazing lady with great baking skills who thought it was fitting to bring her “death by chocolate” cake to the gatherings.

Mom never applied to the Exit Guide Program. She read up on self-deliverance and researched to “do it herself.”

She purchased a nitrogen tank and let the family know that when it was her time, she would not be entering hospitals or hospice – but instead would take her life at a time of her choosing.

My family is Catholic, so this was a tough pill to swallow, but anyone who ever met my mother knows that she did everything with careful consideration. She told me that my uncle, her older brother, even said to her, “I don’t understand, Marianne, but I know you and I love you, and I respect your wishes.”

I must admit, at first I freaked out! Who wants their mother telling them she will be ending her life sometime in the future? But, as time went by, she became more committed, having a necklace and jacket made that said: “My life, my death, my choice.”

I assumed it would be many years before I would need to deal with losing her. However, my mother – the most extraordinary person I ever met – exited on her own terms in her home on Saturday, Jan. 30. She was 73.

She had developed severe allergies that affected her ability to breathe. But, for all appearances, she seemed healthy. I think it was her emotional loss of Bob, not a physical challenge, that erased her quality of life.

I learned afterward that Mom had cleaned out most of her house, with instructions to give to those in need what was left.

She had called her granddaughter, my oldest daughter, to let her know she was ready. She asked Ashley to phone at a designated time, to make sure it had gone as planned. If there was no answer, she would call a neighbor. When the neighbor didn’t answer, Ashley drove to the house, found my mother and phoned me.

My daughter found Papa’s picture turned toward the chair where Mom sat – so his was the last face she saw. A grief counselor got to the house along with the authorities. She heard everything we said about my mother, and said she sounded like a spectacular lady who did things her way.

We actually educated the counselor and a couple of others about Final Exit Network, though FEN was not involved in her death.

The selfish part of me wants more time. The selfish part of me wants to talk to my mother once more, hug her once more – but in my mind, I know there would always be another wish for “once more.”

I take great peace in knowing my mother thought about this in great detail, made the choice with a clear head, and was able to carry it out 100 percent the way she wanted.

My only regret about it all is that she was not able to have someone by her side due to Arizona law, and she knew that. We would have been there in her last moments, but she – even in her last days – was concerned about others, true to form.

The world is a little darker place without my mother in it, and I am going to aspire to make it brighter in her memory.

To any children of FEN members, I offer you this: Nobody wants to think about losing a parent, or any loved one, for that matter, but the ultimate display of gratitude and love we can show them is accepting their wishes, even if they may not be ours.

Our parents bring us into this world, love us, provide us with our foundations for everything, and we cannot ask for more. Tell them what you need to say now, apologize, forgive, and be okay knowing that it’s not about you or anything you did or didn’t do.

It is a very hard personal choice and something to be honored – as I honor my mother today.

By Shana Morales