A Farewell to Frances


Frances Sochovka was an extraordinary woman. She was dad's favorite aunt, and I was quite fond of her.

Frances Sochovka was an extraordinary woman. She was dad’s favorite aunt, and I was quite fond of her.

The only thing I know about her work history is that she held a job of some excellent rank at the Pentagon. In the eyes of the Sochovkas, she was the first one who “made it.”

She was always a lady, and any time I spoke with her, I was amazed by her diction. She sounded like she came from England but without the accent. Her speech was perfectly clipped, and she had an amazing vocabulary.

After I read my maternal grandfather’s eulogy, she asked if I ever had “elocution lessons,” because she thought the way I spoke was beautiful. A laudatory assertion from her about my speaking ability could be considered a compliment of the highest order. When it comes to the way I speak, I can only say that I am my great aunt’s great nephew.

Even in the years she was riddled with dementia, she was ever the lady. She lost her faculties without ever losing her personality.

When I got the call that she was actively dying after living 94 highball-loving years, I swear my dad guided me through it. I was going about my business, and next thing I knew, I was on my way to the hospice unit where she would breathe her last breath.

I walked up to her deathbed, and I had no idea who was dying in front of me. A breathing husk of a female human being lay before me.

Frances was long gone. I cried at her bedside, as I’m sure Dad would have.

When my Pop lay dying in a hospital, the nurse asked if he could be made “more comfortable.” When the family agreed, a massive bolus dose of morphine was administered, and he passed away most comfortably.

When it was Dad’s turn, we were given a comfort pack for his active dying, and one of the pharmaceuticals was high-dose morphine concentrate. When his quality of life was absolute zero, I gave him milliliter upon milliliter until he passed. It is what any good son would do.

When I saw Aunt Frances’s mottled shell, I knew there was nothing left. As a pharmacist, there was only one thing I could do for her, but the rules of the hospice forbade me from doing it. In their eyes, she was as comfortable as she was going to get.

While her air hunger would be treated by hourly doses of lower-dose morphine than I would recommend, nothing would be done to actively help her pass. For 17.5 hours, she could do nothing but breathe once per minute.

While she passed as peacefully as she was allowed, I felt that it was nothing short of barbaric. There was nothing resembling a life function other than apnea, and there was no reason for her or the family to be put through any more.

What we can do for our dogs we can’t do for our human loved ones, and I think that needs to change.

Jay Sochoka, RPh, is going to have a highball for his dear Aunt Frances.

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