Kill Me Please!
by Harrison Lapahie Jr. (Diné)
The scenery outside my bus window whizzed so quickly by me, so much quicker than my already dazed mind could comprehend. I looked down at sleeping Nizhoni and realized just how fitting her name was. In Navajo it meant beauty beyond compare. I pulled her blanket closer around her to try to give her some form of security. The sun was slowly setting and I knew that we would arrive at our destination the next morning. The dreariness of twilight and the gentle humming of the bus engine sent my mind back into remembrance of the events that led up to this strange journey.
We had grown up together, having the same fears and dreaming the same visions. Together we were breast-fed upon the legends of our ancestors. Even though we only knew the city as our home, through my parents and hers, we grew to love the land of our past.
Our being together eventually created a oneness between us. Through this oneness, love blossomed and engulfed our lives. We were together most of the day and much of the nights. Together, I thought, what a glorious word.
I remembered the day I went to her house and found her crying. Through the sobbing, I got the message in broken phrases, "Muscular Dystrophy ..... no known cure ..... won't be too long now". I remembered how the message had hit me. It was the first time I remember crying so very openly.
During the next weeks and months, dear Nizhoni slowly but surely began to get weaker. She would sleep for days at a time and never seemed to have an appetite. Her condition continued to deteriorate and soon she wasn't even able to walk.
She knew she was dying. We talked about it often. It really frightened me at times to think of the pain that she must have been going through. I remembered the time that she said she wanted to see the land of her dreams one time before it happened. How could I refuse?
The next day I went down to the depot and purchased two tickets from Los Angeles to Flagstaff, Arizona. That afternoon, she, in her traditional Indian dress, wrapped in a colorful wool blanket, and I, pushing her wheelchair and carrying her onto the bus, left.
My eyes focused my mind back into reality and I realized that it was morning. We were only ten miles from Flagstaff. I suddenly remembered the thing in my pocket that I had forgotten amidst the confusion of our departure.
I noticed she was awake so I took it out. It was a lovely squash-blossom necklace that my mother had given me to give to my future bride. I gently placed it around her neck and felt her loving eyes burrowing into my soul.
We rented a jeep in Flagstaff and headed for a canyon that her father had told her of. Neither of us said a word during the rough two hour trip. When we finally got to the place, it was late afternoon. The sun's position threw strange shadows along the canyon walls. She told me to carry her closer to the ledge so that she could get a better view. We looked across the canyon below for what seemed to be years. She seemed to shiver, so I again drew her blanket closer around her. She put her arms around my neck and for some reason drew very close, as if holding on for survival. Then the words came. "May I die the most unworthiest of deaths if I ever forget them. Drop me off the cliff, please." My immediate reaction was almost a screaming "What?". She held me close and spoke again, "Kill me, please."
My mind seemed to erupt into a battlefield. Two sides could clearly be seen conflicting. One side was that of my past. Throughout my life I was taught to love life. The words, "Thou Shalt Not Kill", resounded through the corridors of my mind. Then the other side came into focus. The suffering she was going through. The struggle it was for her to even breathe. I thought that maybe even God was calling her and that I was meant to be the one to return her to his presence.
I realized that this was euthanasia, mercy-killing. Before I had thought of it as murder. Now I wasn't sure just what I believed.
A thought shot through my mind, "Don't play God!". Another rose to meet it, "If you really love her, you'll release her from her suffering".
I looked to the skies with her in my arms for some inspiration. My eyes focused on a small gold spot slowly approaching me. I soon recognized it as an eagle as it began to circle over my head. I thought of the eagle resembling what God must have been doing now, watching and waiting. I cried out to him in my mind for help but received no reply. I violently closed my eyes and quivered as my mind continued to rage in confusion.
Suddenly the confusion left. I opened my eyes and again saw the blue sky and the lowering sun with the eagle crossing in front. Then I looked down into my arms and beheld the empty blanket. I fell to my knees and screamed into the nameless depths of the canyon for her.
I cried out in despair to the sky and once again saw the eagle above, circling lower. It circled over the canyon. Then rising from the dark depths came another eagle to join it. I'm not sure to this day, but I believe I saw around the neck of the other eagle, a squash blossom necklace. I cried out her name one last time as the two eagles vanished into the blazing sunset.
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