My longtime friend decided to die last week, on the heels of the Spring Equinox, the archetypal moment of renewal and new life.
He sent out a Facebook farewell with an invitation to his memorial service, scheduled for a few days after he would "pull the plug."
Forty-seven, married with two little girls, it was four years ago that he was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease). He navigated a rapid deterioration with more grace and dignity than most people muster for dealing with daily stress.
ALS is 100% fatal and results in a slow death, with the most common cause of death being suffocation resulting from a paralyzed diaphragm muscle. The disease afflicts about 350,000 people in the world annually. Approximately half of the patients die within three years of diagnosis.
After Aaron made his announcement, a few religious fundamentals rebuked him or tried to dissuade him, some even publicly suggested he had made a wrong choice, and might be punished for eternity.
But as Vine Deloria Jr. famously said, "Religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those who've already been there." And Aaron certainly qualifies.
Thankfully, the vast majority of people posting on Aaron's and his family's Facebook pages were compassionate, understanding and supportive, and offered heartwarming words of comfort. He'd clearly surrounded himself with an extended family of deep friendship. And they all stretched out their love to midwife him on his journey.
Few on this planet have walked through the doorway to the beyond with the understanding, peace and grace that Aaron exhibited in his life, and in his poignant post on Facebook:
Farewell, all my friends, old and new. I have decided to "pull the plug" on March 24. I have to say that these past 47 years have been a grand adventure, and it is bittersweet to see it end. It will be quick and painless, and I am at peace with my decision. I am sad that I'm leaving my family. Though these words don't adequately express my feelings, they're the best I have.
To all of you who have been touched, no, mauled, by ALS, hang on, a cure is surely on its way. Alas, unless it comes in the next week, it's too late for me. I am nearly at the point where it is impossible to communicate, and if you know me, you know how much I love to talk when I have something on my mind.- Advertisement -
Speaking of which, there are a few things I'd like to say. First, I want to express my gratitude to everyone who has supported me and my family in a multitude of ways. You have made all the difference in the world, and I expect you'll have nothing but good karma coming your way. I wish I had the time and energy to thank each of you personally. Suffice to say, I thank you and I wish the best for you and yours.
Next, I need to say that I will be spending the days I have left in solitude with Gwen, Ashlin, and Sabina. Although I will continue to read messages and emails, please don't expect a response. I have such limited time and energy now, and I want to focus all of it on my family. For messages to me, feel free to post those here. For offers to help or any questions, please send an email. Please do not text or call us. Our family has decided not to accept visitors this next week. Thank you for understanding.
Finally, I would like to speak a little about the process of dying as I've experienced it these past four years. First off, it's not a matter of dying, so much as a process of living.