I first wrote this blog several weeks ago. Then, I gave it up and decided not to post it. However, something happened to change my mind – so here it is.
When would you like to die?
I choose never. I also would like to remain mentally and physically healthy during that time. I want the never die answer to apply to all people I love, like, care about, and anyone who I don’t want to leave me. It’s settled – no more death, no more suffering before death in lonely misery and pain. No more loss, being left, or watching someone wither away with cancer. Problem solved in less than 80 words. Praise be.
This is an issue of rights. I’m one of many who think our right to die is as basic as any natural human right. We can’t choose when and how we die. No one can help anyone else decide that.
Any of us could be accidentally killed at any time. Otherwise, and more likely, the people we pay to keep us alive will find that, eventually, nothing they can do will prevent the inevitable.
I assume that for most (not all) of my family, my death would be something of a big deal. Like birth, it’s a one-time thing. Unlike birth and life, death has no end. But it does have a process called dying, and that seems to be the larger concern we share regarding the topic. It is the getting from life to death that we worry about. I am going to tell you about two deaths.
When I first met Dixie about four years ago, she was a fairly spry and cantankerous 98-year-old lady. I attended Dixie’s 99th birthday party. I watched as she introduced each arriving guest to each of the 15 or so other persons in the room, correctly by name and relationship. Then, she would tell a little story about each new arrival. Dixie stood, and moved around the room, in short heels through all of this for two hours. I was amazed. Her 100th birthday party was a memorial service. Dixie died in her home of a heart attack or similar cardiac event about six months later. If we could all be Dixie, I would not be writing this.
I met Joe less than two years ago, when I moved into the same apartment building. Last April, I attended his 96th birthday party. While not quite up to Dixie’s condition, Joe seemed fine to me. He was able to get around well with a walker. He drove and took care of virtually all his personal issues. Joe was very independent. I’ve been told that he informed others (not me) that he was concerned, and if his health failed too much, he would commit suicide.
After returning from a trip to the emergency room a few weeks ago, sometime during the night, Joe stepped into his bath tub and used a pistol to end his life. He was alone at the time and left no note and no explanation. I was shocked. But as I learned more, I’ve come to understand his motivation.
I live in state where physician assisted suicide and death with dignity are legal. However, getting a prescription is not easy and a patient must be terminal within six months. There is more to this. I don’t believe that we have the right to force people like Joe into this position. But we do.
In most of America, it’s illegal for us to receive any assistance in bringing about this inevitable event. Suicide is illegal in some states.
Jose H. Gomez, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, CA, has written about the right to die: “There is no such thing.” Many religious people will not grant anyone the right to end their own life (believers or not). The circumstances don’t matter: age, pain, suffering, loss of all hope of recovery, or loss of any dignity. Only “natural” death is permissible. If that’s what people want for themselves, good for them. But for others who wish to die, evil and cruel laws are unacceptable.
I fully understand the difficulty of this issue. Click here to read a good article on the right to die with a fantastic video, both of which are much more balanced than my opinion. Another eye-opener is an excellent TED talk on dying that I have watched several times. Click here to view it.
I’m sure that we’re technically and legally smart enough to figure this out so that people like Joe, or others with painful terminal illness can be granted the relief that a god who cared would grant them. But that is only going to be possible as we become more secular and religion is separated from law.
For each of us, there is a time to be born and a time to live. Always look both ways because there is also a time to die.