the black spot is healed…

—Leviticus 13

I figure the last nursing home suspected me, which is why I was fired. But the residents’ souls spoke, and I listened. I’m proud of the people I helped in the United States of America. It was hard work. I offered transition, transformation, transmigration of souls.

I have a work permit for Switzerland. When I interviewed for this job, I couldn’t believe I’d be paid to do what needs doing. Moved from the United States, where I was fired for doing God’s work, to Switzerland, where it isn’t called God’s work. In North America, I only helped along people with black dots in their bodies. Same here.

In Switzerland, I’m paid to watch the doctor administer the final injection, but that’s the least of my duties. I’d like to report that it’s an honor to bear witness; however, really, it’s an obligation. My duties often involve getting tea for the bereaved. The soul leaves the body, the blackbird becomes a dove, and so on.

Our offices are near Lake Zug. The building is a box where people come to die. Some famous Swiss architect designed it so that souls could escape. Each room has a view of the lake. So many apartment buildings in Switzerland have little slot windows, hardly a view at all, but this is not a box building. Yes, it’s industrial. Practical. Yet it also has transparent floor to ceiling windows with sections that open to fresh air. There are no mosquito nets, but if mosquitoes still bother you at the end of your life you haven’t learned much.

Sometimes the lake reflects the sky, and folks look at the lake, think it is the sky, and don’t know which way is up.

“It’s the clouds,” I say. “You’re going to have a puffy landing.”

I always open a window to make sure the soul has a means to fly high.

There’s a herd of Scottish cows that graze next door. The Swiss may support an individual’s right to end-of-life decisions, but they have been sorely resistant to diversifying their cattle breeds. Highland cattle are easier on the land, not so muddy. People adore Highland cattle because they are shy. They have bangs. They wear smaller cowbells than traditional Swiss breeds; the sound, a celebration, not a lament.

“Are you ready to die?” I ask.

In the final half hour, the folks we’re going to kill don’t cry, but their kin do, especially if they’re from Canada or the United States. So many sad privileged people with their sad privileged stories. To pay for assistance rather than to jump, shoot, hang, swallow, or bleed—requires money, a final flight. North Americans have such an obsession with trauma as identity, but they have no understanding of compassion. They don’t know how practical it is to die. Your loved one dies once, but you experience their deadness countless times. Well, howdy, someday you’ll be dead, too.

If I don’t see black dots inside folks—in their stomach or brain or liver or bones—I refuse to help kill them. I have standards. Call me a gatekeeper.

But I’ve never refused. There’s a black dot in everyone.

Renée E. D’Aoust’s first book “Body of a Dancer” (Etruscan Press, 2011) was a ForeWord Reviews “Book of the Year” finalist. Recent publications include Brevity, Fourth Genre, and Sweet. D’Aoust teaches online at Casper College and North Idaho College. She lives with her husband and tube of fur Tootsie in Switzerland. Please visit www.reneedaoust.com and follow @idahobuzzy.

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