Goodbye To A Friend

November 23, 2011

When I was 14 — a freshman in high school — our parish church used to host “CYO” events.  That’s Catholic Youth Organization.  There was catechism and then a movie, dance, party of some sort.  I met an “older man” of 18 at the CYO events.  His name was Mike Scholl and we remained friends over the 50+ years since that initial meeting.  This past weekend, Mike didn’t know show up to play pool with some of the men.  One of them called Mike’s home several times.  There was no answer.  Tom decided to worry.  On Sunday, he drove to Mike’s home, saw Mike’s truck in the drive, but Mike did not answer his door.  Like many of us, Mike lives alone.  His home was in an area that has a facilities manager so Tom went to the management office.  The manager had the key to the house.  Mike was on the bedroom floor unconscious.  An ambulance took him to University Hospital and he dies there today.

My name and number were on the folder that the manager had in his file.  So, I was contacted.  I knew Mike had two adopted daughters.  He and their mother had divorced in the early ’80s and he’s had no contact with them since the divorce.  Another of Mike’s friends who is a computer whiz, was let into Mike’s home on Monday.  He went through Mike’s computer and cell phone trying to find a link to one of the daughters.  He scoured FaceBook and found her.  He also found that she was a nurse at a small hospital in Texas.  He called the hospital, but she no longer worked there.  He messaged her on Facebook but she never responded.  Yesterday our hospital decided someone needed to do something for Mike.  He had not prepared an Advance Health Care Directive.  The doctors determined that he was brain dead; he was being kept alive on life support.  Mike’s other friends and I know Mike would not want that.

I signed an Acknowledgement of Assumption of Authority for Health Care Decisions.  Last evening, one friend (who is a hospice consultant) and I went to the hospital and I authorized the doctors to remove Mike from life support.  We sat with him for a few hours.  His body was more relaxed once all the equipment had been removed.  The nurse set up a morphine drip to keep his lungs relaxed so his body did not become “air hungry”.  This morning at 7:00, Mike was still breathing on his own though totally non-responsive.  He passed away at 9:30.  The doctors determined he suffered a stroke, then had a heart attack.  He also had metastasized cancer.  He was so darned stubborn — would not go to the doctor — wouldn’t ask for help, though he gave help out to anyone that needed it.

So why am I telling you all this?  Because it is not fair to ask a friend or a family member to make an end of life decision for you.  If you prepare an Advance Health Care Directive, people about whom you care will not be forced to decide whether you live or die.  I have done this once before for my mother when I was 19 years old and she was dying of cancer.  I do not ever want to make this choice for another person (other than myself) again.  The Advanced Directive form is easy to complete.  If any of you want a copy, I will email it to you — please, just ask me.

Rest in peace, Mike Scholl.  My friend, I loved you for 52 years.


  1. DeAnn Nelson says:

    So sorry you had to go through that Penni, but thank God you were able to help your friend! Please send me info on the advanced care directive. All of my family memebers have talked about it but we’ve never done anything about it. Maybe this will spark the fire. *Hugs to you and Smoochie kisses*

  2. Kathleen McCombs says:

    This brought back sad memories for me and I cried when I was reading. We had to do this same thing for my father and it’s so very hard. Mother made sure she had this taken care of after the ordeal with daddy and I don’t want to go through this again. My heart broke for you when you said you were taking responsibility for your friend and I’ve had you in my prayers and cried since I read your first post. You are an angel and a great friend. Bless you Penni.

  3. Taryn says:

    I can relate to this situation well. My dad went down hill quickly due to respiratory issues and as a result was breathing only with the help of a machine. He was no longer conscious either. He had never discussed with my sister or me his end-of-life wants. That left us with the extremely difficult decision on withdrawing life-support. We considered his quality of life (none) and his chance of recovery (none), and allowed the doctors to remove the respirator. He died a few hours later.

    This was a very hard decision to make for a ailing father, but I can’t even begin to imagine doing it for a friend. I am sorry you were put in that position and admire your bravery once there.

  4. Alta says:

    Thank you for being a friend to Mike. There is nothing more special then upholding someones wishes.

    I work as a nurse in a family practice clinic and try to explain to people the need for such a thing. Most people say they are too healthy to worry about it but no one is ever too healthy. You never know what will happen later today, tomorrow or next week.

  5. Carol Teal says:

    I’m so sorry, Penni. Hugs to you and may Mike rest in peace.

  6. Mary says:

    Penni, it may not seem like it now, but you did the right thing. You knew him well enough to know he wouldn’t want to continue on with like that.

    Having said that, as both a Registered Nurse and a family member who has had to make that decision, it’s still not an easy thing to do, even if you do have an advanced directive.

    Please, everyone listen to Penni’s story and let your family, physician and attorney know your wishes. Have that conversation. Even if you just write your wishes down on a piece of paper, it’s better than nothing.

    I’ll say a prayer for Mike. God bless. You are a good & true friend.

  7. Jenn says:

    Penni, it made my heart both ache and smile to hear your story and know you loved your friend enough to do the hardest thing for the best reason. I have a living will, and the dying kind, too, because it’s important to me to be responsible, even when I can no longer do so. We went through the end with my grandmother, and even with those documents, it was difficult. It is good to be reminded of why those things are important, even though we do not like to think of them. Many hugs to you and good thoughts for Mike.

  8. Wow, Penni. Talk about standing up and doing the right thing — helping someone in this way is surely a shining example of Right Behavior.

    Thank you for being an excellent role model.

    We are very lucky — our parents all have directives, as do we.

    When a person is “too healthy to think about that” is EXACTLY the right time to think about it. Much harder when push comes to shove.

    Please, everyone, for the sake of those who will have to make the decisions if you don’t, DO IT.

    People do so many awful things — you have helped balance the karma scale, Penni. Thank you.

  9. Amy says:

    So sorry for your loss Penni but happy that you were able to be there for your long time friend.

  10. Genie Murphy says:

    What a moving story, Penni. You were truly a great friend for your friend. Please send me a copy of the advanced health care directive. I have a living will, but it can’t hurt to have the directive.