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Day: October 7, 2013

“Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death” by Katy Butler

Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death” by Katy Butler

c.2013, Scribner
$25.00 / $28.99 Canada
322 pages




Your mind’s made up.

There’s no going back once you’ve made a choice between Door Number One or Door Number Two. You’re not a waffler, you weighed pros and cons, and you’re confident you picked correctly. Or not.

Indeed, the worst part about making a decision can be the regret that’s possible at the end of the choice. And in the new book “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” by Katy Butler, a seemingly no-brainer decision tears a family apart.

Jeff Butler cheated death many times.

As a child, he narrowly missed dying in a car accident. In World War II, he lost an arm, but not his life. And in November 2001, at age 79, he suffered a stroke that nearly killed him. A year later, he received a pacemaker.

And that, says his daughter Katy, kept him alive but didn’t “prevent his slide into dementia, incontinence, near-muteness, misery, and helplessness.”

Jeff and his wife Val were forward thinkers. He was a college professor. She was a perfectionist with fierce drive. They had been “in control of their lives, and they did not expect to lose control of their deaths.”

But that’s exactly what happened: as Jeff’s health continued to decline, his abilities dwindled and his cognizance weakened – all of which he was aware. He indicated dismay at his diminished life and said that he’d “unfortunately” lived too long.

On the other side of the country, Katy Butler worried. She’d always been closer to her father than to her mother, but arguments and old hurts continued to sting. Still, she flew home to Connecticut to help because she was, after all, their daughter – statistically, the one who bore the brunt of parenting a parent.

But as Jeff’s dementia worsened, so did Val’s tolerance and her health. She was “stoic,” but impatient, snappish and exhausted, and only accepted outside help when she became overwhelmed. Butler says she knew her mother “clouted” her father, and shouted at him in frustrated anger.

By this time, Butler was convinced that the pacemaker her father had wasn’t the medical miracle it was meant to be. And she learned that pacemakers could be turned off…

So much went through my mind as I read this beautiful, emotionally brutal book.

With sorrow, grace, and growing exasperation, author Katy Butler writes of her father’s long, messy death; her mother’s quiet, dignified passing; and the parallel story of how modern medicine, drug companies, and government rules promoted the former.

That’s a lot of hard reading, made gentler with Butler’s Buddhist values and serenity. And yet, it’s not easy to avoid outrage as she points out the unfairness of aging, the cruelty of physical decline, and the knowledge that those – and the surety of caretaking – are somewhat inevitable for many Baby Boomers today.

This is a stunning book, truthful and its dignified, and it could be a conversation-starter. If there’s a need for that in your family – or if you only want to know what could await you – then read “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.”  You won’t regret it.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.

What you need to know about Cover Oregon


Of the Keizertimes 

As of Oct. 1, Cover Oregon, a health insurance exchange, has been offering healthcare insurance to more than half a million currently uninsured Oregonians.

Under the program, which was established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010, residents can submit a single application and receive a variety of options for purchasing health and dental insurance as well as potential subsidies for those who cannot afford to enroll outright.

“The exchange is a tool, it’s about health and the health of Oregonians,” said Rocky King, executive director of Cover Oregon. “We’re trying get people coverage that will enhance their lives from a health standpoint.”

For the first two weeks of open enrollment, prospective clients of Cover Oregon are encouraged to consult with a local agent (see sidebar, Page 6, for a listing of Keizer agents), who will help guide them through the application process and determine which options are available to them. On Oct. 15, Oregonians will be able to apply directly through the Cover Oregon website, The website has translations for Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese language speakers and includes a calculator to determine eligibility for tax credits.

To read the complete article and other news from around the Keizer area, pick up a copy of the October 4 print edition of Keizertimes, available at stores all around the area. To subscribe to the print edition for just $25 a year, click on the ‘Subscribe Today’ link at the top of the page, call 503-390-1051 or visit our office at 142 Chemawa Road North in Keizer.

Keizer agents offering Cover Oregon assistance

Between now and Oct. 15, Cover Oregon officials suggest visiting with local agents who have been trained in assisting clients who want to sign up up for health insurance through the Cover Oregon marketplace. Here’s who you can turn to for help in Keizer:

Virgil Barth
Insurance Services

Bay Inurance Agency, Inc.
3905 River Rd N.

Sean Connor Insurance Agency Inc.
5720 Inland Shores Way N.

Paul Pfnister

Health Marketing
NW Inc.

Sandi Martin
(offers Spanish language assistance)

Medicare Choices

David Pun

Rick J Roemer Co., LLC

USA Benefits Group

State Farm
4952 River Rd N.
Keizer, Oregon 97303

Pacific Benefit Planning, LLC