Dying: Our Final Project

How I'd hope to do it.

Posted Apr 27, 2019

Public Domain, Wikimedia
Source: Public Domain, Wikimedia

We all end by having to complete the same project: dying.

It’s all well and good to plan how we’ll do that final project, but I don’t think we can predict accurately. No less than Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who became famous for asserting that we all go through the same five-step process from denial to acceptance, herself in the end disavowed some of her model. My dear friend at 90, in bad, bad shape, bought a revolver and said that if it got much worse, he’d shoot himself. Well, it’s a year later. He’s far worse, and he’s still alive.

That said, it can’t hurt to describe how I hope I’d handle my final project. Perhaps it will motivate me to stick with my honorable plan or inspire you or me to at least not die as badly as we otherwise might.

Dying would be easy if I were in good health and suddenly died, but let’s assume I had end-stage cancer, facing a rough final months.

Yes, I’d be tempted to volunteer for a clinical trial, but such a low percentage are helpful, and many subject the patient to additional misery, so I probably wouldn’t volunteer. And I would reject expensive, heroic measures, both to save my family money and to not tax the health-care system with little prospects of the efforts being worth it.

I would work as much and as long as I could. A silver lining of my being a lifelong hypochondriac is that I’ve spent considerable time thinking about how I’d want to spend my final days—For years now, I’ve lived each day as if were my last. Unless I were too sick to do a good job, I believe my heartbeats would be best spent doing my work: counseling, writing these articles, doing my radio show. I suspect that most people would choose to spend their last days differently.

I would do my best to not subject others to my suffering. I’d see few guests and would tell my wife as little as I could about my pain—it wouldn’t help; it would only bring her down.

I would opt for physician-assisted suicide and if I didn't qualify under California's overly restrictive law, I'd find a way.

Fortunately, my doctor says I’m in fine health and have a long way to go before my final months, but of course, one never knows. If I did have end-stage disease,  the above is how I hope I’d comport myself. And I hope that these thoughts may be of some value to you.

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