Eda LeShan: An Ombudsman for Children

Born: June 6, 1922
Died: March 2, 2002

Eda LeShanWhen I was a new mother nearly 30 years ago, it was the writing of Eda LeShan that inspired me. Eda was one who mothered me in her writing and whose voice of respect for the inherent integrity of children echoes within me into the present. She was the author of more than 30 books for adults and children, including When Your Child Drives You Crazy and It’s Better to be Over the Hill than Under it. She was also a counselor, educator, and playwright.

All of her life, Eda was an Ombudsman for children everywhere. Her television program “How Do Your Children Grow? ran on PBS for three years during the 1970s. She was a commentator on CBS Newsfront for many years. A frequent contributor to Mothering, Eda was honored as a Living Treasure in 1999.

Eda is survived by her daughter, Wendy, granddaughter, Rhiannon, aunt Edith Engel and her husband, Larry. Mothering is honored to be able to publish Eda’s last public words:

To Own One’s Life and Death
by Eda LeShan

I am almost 80 and I connect to a dialysis machine for three hours three times per week. In addition to being on the machine, I have seizures and can no longer walk. I am also legally blind. I have had to decide whether I want to continue living this way. I’ve decided I don’t.

This has given me a new perspective on the meaning of life and death. I am now in charge of what happens. If I pull the plug on the machine, I will die in a week or a month. No doubts or guesses.

The remarkable thing about this is that it gives me some last chances. I will have time enough to say, “I love you” to all the important people in my life. I can say “thank you” if I feel like it. And, most important of all, I can behave well.

It means I do not have to waste time on superficial matters such as the telephone repairman not showing up when he was supposed to or the souring of a container of milk or late delivery of the mail again. I can spend a lot of time petting Peaches my cat, who needs the most loving of any cat I have ever known.

I talk to people on the phone and give them messages that they often cannot hear. I am more encouraging and positive than I have been before. I am far more patient-never in a rush. I haven’t lost my sense of humor.

I realize that I have had a glorious life, full of love and fulfillment. I was lucky in my parents, aunts and uncles. I cannot remember a time when I did not feel loved by others. My marriage, work, and parenthood have been filled with great excitement and satisfaction. It would be foolish and ungenerous to ask for more. None of us lives forever and I have had more than my share of the delights of life. No matter how much longer I may live, there will not be time enough to relive all the good memories. The only pain is to say goodbye to all the people I still care about. I surely hope that they will realize the possibilities of life as much as I have.

When I unplug the machine, I don’t know exactly when death will happen. No rush, I’m ready. I have made the most important decision about when life is no longer livable. I have made the most of my life-I lived it as well as I could. I have forgiven myself for my past actions (although I still wonder about some of them!).

I know that every cell of my body is mine and not controlled by machines or other medical procedures and apparatuses. I am not owned by their buttons and lights and bells, which have nothing to do with living.

I am committed to a victory of my life over a machine. I will live in the memories of those whose lives I have touched. I find this deeply satisfying.

Peggy O’Mara
Santa Fe , New Mexico