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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How do YOU want to die?

Of course, we've all had this conversation at one time or another. You know the one, "Would rather know the hour of your death or has it come as a surprise? Slow and lingering with time to make your peace or fast? Fire or ice?"

But that isn't what I mean today when I ask, "How do you want to die?"

I've been thinking a lot about Elizabeth Edwards this week. She knew years ago that her breast cancer was most likely going to be the cause of her death. Of course, she could have been hit by a bus or gotten pneumonia or been killed in a plane crash. However, when you are told that your cancer is "treatable but not curable" you can probably bank on it eventually killing you. At least when it is breast cancer that has metastasized to your bones and then your liver. Treatments--chemo and radiation--can only be used when one is strong enough to tolerate them. Since the treatments themselves are ravaging....well, some people endure a long time. Others not so long.

Yet, how do you want to die? Elizabeth Edwards seems to have done it the same way she lived, with grace and dignity. At least publically, at least as far as the press is presenting it. She's reported to have posted to Facebook a farewell message of sorts:

“I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces – my family, my
friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. These graces have
carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good
times than I ever could have imagined. The days of our lives, for all of us, are
numbered. We know that.

It isn’t possible to put into words the love and
gratitude I feel to everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me
every day. To you I simply say: you know. With love, Elizabeth."

Ignoring stories of marital discord and harpy-ish behavior, because this entry isn't really about Elizabeth Edwards at all, those are pretty graceful words. It's even rumored she didn't write them Or that they were written a while ago and she was just waiting for the right moment to post them.


What would you post to Facebook just days before your death? Huh?

I'd like to think that I'd have the where with all to be as graceful. The reality, though, is that I'd be more likely to post something like "fuckedy fuck fuck fuck...this is so fucking unfair. Why me? Fuck, I'm pissed. Why isn't this happening to someone who deserves it?"

I imagine most of us die in the way we live, so my death will not be nearly as graceful. My life certainly isn't graceful.

If we die the way we live, I just might live forever because I'm the ultimate procrastinator. Here it is, 4:50 p.m. and I haven't gotten very far with dinner plans yet today.

I supposed this all means I need to make some changes in my daily life if I want to approach death with a right mind and right intentions.

I need to dwell on this some more. I don't want to dwell on death, but let's face it, dying is the only certainty in life. Maybe we should all think about it a little more.

How do YOU want to die?


Lili said...

I can't believe nobody has answered this yet.

I know my own answer will be controversial, but I expect (due to family history, mainly) that I am very likely to die of one of a small handful of severe but chronic conditions/diseases.

I will manage whatever that disease ends up being for as long as I can, but when that disease becomes fully intractable- when life is no longer holding any pleasure and/or when I have lost my mental faculties to a degree that affects my ability to care for myself- I want to die of physician-assisted suicide.

I hope I will live in a world where that is considered a humane and legal option.

Theresa Williams said...

I agree with you, Dawn, about physician-assisted suicide. What I would want most is for my death to be swift and painless. I worry about the cost of dying in a country that won't support its ill and dying citizens. What I would most want is for people not to feel bad when I die because I'm at peace with the idea of dying. I also think a great deal about the death of people that I love. I admire Elizabeth Edwards so much and have never understood why so many people are critical of her.

Theresa Williams said...

And of course Elizabeth wrote her own elegy prior; I mean, who writes something that coherent on the verge of death? And anyway, aren't there better things to attend to when you're getting ready to die? Like being with your loved ones? It's pretty much accepted that the haiku masters like Basho wrote their death haiku in advance. It's a mystery to me why people would be critical of this practice.