A while back my father, Josh, suffered a heart attack. It wasn't his first, but it was his last. He was 80. I only began thinking about his death again as I listen to I guess what constitutes the debate regarding healthcare in our country. I would argue the current discourse has little to do with health or care, but, then, that's not the subject of my thinking.
A conversation worth considering, I believe, is the level of resources commitment we have at end-of-living, that part of the argument those who are false prophets to people simply desperate for even caricatures of leadership define as "death panels" or other equally as idiotic drivel. So let me argue for a conversation worth considering.
A note of caution, however, the following conversation is only for adults; others may be able to locate crayons in another article.
We lost a friend a number of months ago to ovarian cancer and she was 34. She left behind two small kids and a husband and an older child by another marriage.
The passing of my 34-year-old friend was a tragedy, the passing of my father left a hole in my heart, an abyss that won't ever be filled, but his passing was the natural progression of this thing we call life and we all knew that and yes we're sad as grieving never really goes away it only dims from the immediacy of the moment, but his death was a natural conclusion to a life well led.
A couple of years ago my father had another run in with his aging body and its parts that were gradually slowing or breaking down and he began getting his house in real order, and that's not to suggest he didn't already have an order to his house, but this brief hospitalization provided impetus for a concerted effort on his part to insure no "t" was left uncrossed and no "i" was left un-dotted. He did this with his legal matters (insurances, will, car titles, house, etc.). He also did this with his relationships, insuring everything, or most everything, which needed to be said was said.
We sat down, us kids, individually with my dad and he walked us through what he wanted. He talked us through his thinking. He talked us through his perception of the quality of life he was feeling.
He believed in "a higher power," but didn't know exactly what that meant. He left his church decades ago as he couldn't get beyond the hypocrisy many of us see and he never came to an understanding of religion and all the brouhaha it creates, feeling as though man's translation of religion has caused easily many more ills than it has prayed to solve. Arguably, he was right; inarguably, he was honest. He didn't want his "service" in a church and he didn't want his service conducted by ministers.
We listened intently to his reasoning that wasn't saying "I'm to the point where I want assisted suicide," but was at a point where he was saying "I do want to go in my own way and in my own time and without artificial means to support this vessel that is failing me."
And we took solace in the richness he felt for the years he'd spent building an enviable life and an enviable family and took solace, too, in the matter-of-fact nature not of his request for respect, but of his demand for it. He would have a respectful death and by his demeanor and determination we knew he would lead his passing as he had led his life--in absolute control.
After he died, his best friend of some 50 odd years was the emcee for the celebration of his life (and we tried not to have a ceremony based on sadness). The family, those of us who could, was his testimonial. He wanted to be cremated and I believe everyone that mattered to him in the state knew this. He wanted his ashes spread in a specific spot in his hometown and we did that.
He wanted no extraordinary measures used to save him from the conclusion all of us face.
DNR was his mantra. Do Not Resuscitate.
My dad was terminally ill. He didn't have cancer. He didn't have congestive heart failure. He had no other life threatening illness. But he was terminal.
He knew, however, that everyone of us is.
My dad died at 80 having packed at least 3 lifetimes into one, having his house in order, knowing exactly what he wanted and most importantly us knowing exactly what he wanted.