Watching someone you love die is radicalizing as hell


A recent piece in Popular Mechanics discussed a “teleportation pod” that would allow people who want to die to do so with dignity. At the push of a painless button, apparently. 

I didn’t read the article in full because I don’t have a subscription to Popular Mechanics and frankly, however neat the technology may be, I don’t need to read any further. 

If someone wants to die, they should be allowed to die. If someone is in so much pain that they would, for example, ask their own children to help them die, then that person should be given the dignity and respect to have an option that would allow them to slip off this mortal coil painlessly. 

I am typically not an immovable force. I am usually flexible. I am usually supple. I consider myself open to new ideas.

And I can understand why a person might object on religious, moral, or spiritual grounds to my endorsement of assisted suicide.

That objection also makes me wonder, however, what said person’s experience with death or sickness or pain or trauma might be. 

I am also well aware that my mother was not the first person to suffer a cruel death after fighting cancer. I am well aware that I am not the only person on earth who has had front-row tickets to that nightmare of a show. 

I encourage human beings to have diverse opinions. 

But this Christmas, I am obstinate about something.

It is my first without my mother in almost 40 years, I will go through the motions. I’ll cook, I’ll unwrap presents, I’ll toast to a “Merry, merry” holiday and I’ll make resolutions for the New Year. 

I will also spend time trying to forget. I will spend time trying to forget what necrotic toes look like. I will spend time trying to forget how my mother was so thirsty toward the end but because she couldn’t swallow and was limited to the smallest amount of liquid, a drop would make her vomit. A literal drop.

I’ll try to forget how guilty I felt sitting there by her bed, able to walk downstairs and sate my own thirst while she would have given anything for a cool sip of water. 

I’ll try to forget how she looked at me and without saying a word, communicated her apologies to me. She would muster up the strength to speak, her voice croaking sometimes, telling me she was sorry.

She was sorry!

It broke my heart every time.

I would tell her not to be sorry. I would tell her she did nothing wrong. She shouldn’t worry about anything other than trying to die now so that she could be free. 

My heart is still broken nine months after her death. And honestly, it’s often less about the fact that she is gone, but so much more about the fact that she suffered. She suffered so needlessly. 

If I would have told her back in March that there was a tube she could lay in, press a button, and then blissfully disconnect her life, I know my mother well enough to know she would have said exactly this: “Get me in that fucker.”

In the television series The Good Place, there’s a line from one of the characters about how even if she would have been given a thousand days more with her mother and father in heaven after they died, it still wouldn’t have been enough.

No one is ever ready, really, to let go, I think. 

It is the human condition to ask for more, more, more. 

But sometimes, when the human condition, the whole of a person’s human experience, is limited to starvation, pain, and misery, they don’t want any more.

And that person should have the right to ask for that reprieve. 

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