There is a Time

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.

right-to-die2When 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.

right-to-die3

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.

right-to-die1I 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.

right-to-die4I’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.

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15 thoughts on “There is a Time

  1. Absolutely.

    The reason some religious people don’t want to allow assisted suicide is because they believe our lives and souls don’t belong to us but instead belong to their god.

    I’m fine with them believing that for themselves and they can do what they wish for themselves.

    However, I don’t want their religion informing my choices.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. yep, all the way. My husband and I have discussed this until its an easy discussion. We both have living wills/health care directives and advocates for the one of us left standing, just in case. It needs to be discussed, and too many people are terrified of even the idea of it.

    We tended his mother, in her last days. She died at home, where she wanted to be. She was lucid, she was funny, and determined, and ready to go. She was 90. Taking care of her changed us, and it changed our lives and her family that was left.

    thats not a bad legacy.

    We don’t get to choose, but I would choose to go the way she did if i could.

    What the Ted talk didn’t cover (and perhaps they don’t have this in Australia) was the idea that if you are terminally ill in this country and do not have a health care directive, when your organs begin to falter they put you on machines–permanently– to keep you alive. I find that far more terrible to contemplate than even a bullet to the brain.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. After traveling to Ethiopia to pick up Helena I realized that in some cultures death was a more frequent and normal event. Young and old. The lifespan in Ethiopia is still 40 years old. They don’t have the resources for long, drawn out treatments for disease. Most people just die. It has always made me wonder how they feel about death, what are their views about death and if they are more accepting of death? I really don’t know because I never asked anyone while I was there.

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  4. Personally, I’m glad you tackled the subject. I am not afraid of death, I am afraid of dying, and of course, HOW is the largest bit. I’m one of those terrible people who thinks there are good deaths and bad deaths. Good deaths are quick. Long, painful battles with illness are bad deaths.
    In my own life, I find comfort when people die quickly. I’m glad they didn’t suffer. The aftermath of people grieving after a long period of watching someone dying is far different from the grieving who are shocked. There’s some serious trauma involved in the former. “They” say the dying teach the living, but I’ve yet to hear anyone who’s found a valuable life lesson in hindsight.
    I’ve read a lot about this topic and have some experience, but I don’t know that I’ve fully formed the opinions on right to die. I think right to die should be legal, but whether I think I could ask someone to help me end my life, or help someone take theirs, that part I don’t know. Perhaps it’s a case of what is wrong for one person may be right for another.
    It seems strange to me that we put animals out of misery so they and we do not have to endure more pain, and then we forget we’re animals as well.
    I prefer to think God determines our time on earth, but that’s a lost argument with you, and sometimes with myself. I got to choose when my littlest girls were born, does that make their births less? Should I have died in childbirth? Tricky stuff, that.
    I just don’t know where my morality? or ethics? or spirituality? lie with this subject, but I certainly appreciate links to discover.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Very good points. It is worth mentioning that many of the PAS prescriptions that are filled, are never used. I think it is about 40%, but that may be wrong. My guess is that people want the comfort of having another option.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sorta like the good liquor in the back of the pantry, or the ativan in my bag…Yes, I’m sure it’s comforting.

        Are people on your site always like this? Is it because I wrote “God”?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I have very few readers and seldom see much discussion. I don’t know the answer to your second question. But, since you said that you “prefer to believe,” I see no reason to dispute your comment. I post on controversial topics. There is a reason I started requiring approval of comments before I post them. This makes two on death, so no more on that topic for a long time. Next Tuesday will be my last post on atheism for at least a month.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I think my husband and I would be two people who could honestly say we were lucky to have been there for his mother when she died. The difference perhaps is that we were not just sitting there watching, we were actively involved, in a way that most people rarely are. We turned her, we fed her, we kept her clean and warm, we held her hand.
      I got to clean out the apartment at her bemused direction, and one by one all her family dropped by to visit, and it became a very strange, very comfortable place to be.

      She was most open about the process, and that made it possible for us to be the same with her. We tended her for about two weeks, and it appears that we did our grieving along the way. The visiting nurses were quite outraged that we didnt want to attend the group sessions on grief, but from what Ive seen that only prolongs the sorrow, week by week.

      If we had been forced to ‘watch” while she died, but not permitted or able to help, that would have been a totally different kettle.

      If I were in serious pain, with no hope of recovery, and the thought of being strapped into machines to keep me breathing or my heart beating, indeed, I might ask to be left alone to die on my own. I think I’d insist on it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Some people take much longer, you understand. I didn’t mean watch like stand at a distance and regard, I meant watching the slow decline, the wasting away of the body, the painful infections on the skin, the gasping for air, the mind not in reality anymore — when the person’s awake they only want to sleep, when they want to die, I mean that kind of watching.
        I am so glad you were there for your husband’s mother, to take care of her and one another, but my experiences were not the same, and my current situation isn’t like the others, or yours. Perhaps like births and lives, they are all different.

        Liked by 2 people

    • If somehow your god determines our time on earth, how does it work that *you* decided when your children were born? Millions of women died in childbirth before humans invented ways to prevent that a lot of the time. How does it work that people often died in childbirth or lost 6 out of 10 children a century ago and now they don’t? It would seem that, just when humans were starting to understand medicine and ceased to say “it’s god’s will”, your god changed its mind on how long folks get.

      Suicide is a personal choice. Yep, it can hurt others but so can other personal decisions. And I would like to think that those that I love and who love me would do so enough that they understood why I would take my own life.

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      • I can’t tell if you understand what I wrote, but I don’t understand your reply, or the reason for your reply, or what your expectation is.
        Thanks to modern medicine, I chose the days on which to have c-sections. I mention that choice to help someone be born with less suffering as a comparison to helping someone die with less suffering. I don’t know why you’re asking about maternal death rates when I absolutely asked “Should I have died in childbirth?”
        Although other people do, I don’t say “It’s God’s will” ever. I know, you don’t know me.
        I didn’t write anything about suicide.
        I hope those you love and who love you would do so enough that they understood why you would take your own life, too. I sincerely hope that isn’t something you will face.

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  5. All deaths are the same, and all of them are different. My own mother died of Alzheimer’s. so I’ve been on both sides of that, as has my husband. I do know it’s harder when all you CAN do is watch.

    Liked by 1 person

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