What should we do about our end of days?

My wife Rachel, whom you know as Crane-Station, just returned from Seattle where she was visiting her dying father. Her mother is in declining heath and unlikely to survive him by more than a year. I’ve been through this end-of-life experience with my parents. They passed in 1999 (father) and 2000 (mother).

She is close to her parents. I was not close to mine. She has siblings to share the experience. I was an only child. Despite different relationships with our parents, both of us have experienced emotional storms that are difficult to describe.

My father succumbed to Alzheimers. I watched him die by inches and that experience damn near killed me. I do not want to die that way. I’m willing to take my life, if I find myself drifting down the river of forgetfulness.

I have been thinking a lot lately about dying and what to do about it. Rachel’s father is in his nineties. He saw it coming. Imprisoned in a dying body, he made sure his affairs were in order and prepared himself to die.

But he didn’t die . . .

He is more aware than my father was.

I do not plan to let death choose when I pass.

What about you?

18 Responses to What should we do about our end of days?

  1. Rev Bev says:

    I have been so late to see this…..I miss our thread so much with BOX, et al. Please give my best to Rachel…maybe I will find my way back to the thread. Thank you

  2. girlp says:

    If my illness is fatal and no chance of recovery or I’m brain dead let me go. Alzheimer’s I’m considering leaving this world before my mind is completely gone. Hopefully I won’t develop the condition my father had it and two of my grandmothers sisters so I know the possibility of me developing the condition exsist.

  3. bettykath says:

    I cared for both parents who are now gone, as well as two other with whom I was close. As will I in a few years. I’m working to get all my affairs in order so my siblings won’t have a lot to do. I believe that how we live our lives has a lot to do with how we go. Another factor is the lessons that others learn when caring for us. I learned lessons from caring for my parents that my siblings haven’t learned yet, although my sister cared for her husband during his final illness and it was a learning and caring and difficult experience for her. My brother has frequent texted drunken rants about how he wants to die. He’s off and on about suicide. I don’t think he wants to die, he wants the pain and lonliness to stop and he uses the bottle. Logic doesn’t work. He will eventually get his wish.

  4. fauxmccoy says:

    oh fred nd rachel — my heart goes out to you both. as you know, i am in the same position (father died 5 years ago, mother now fading fast). i do my best to tend to her needs, while raising my teen daughters and my own disability. it’s a lot, taken altogether.

    i have faced my own mortality more times that my psyche can bear, hence the ptsd on top of the physical ailments. my father who i loved dearly did not wait for senility to set in before the dementia. my young life was overshadowed with my father’s bipolar illness. as a teen, my brother and i took turns staying home with my father while he stared down a loaded .38 that lay on the table before us.

    i am not sure what the whole plan was — only my part. to somehow stop a grown man who was intent on ending his life. all i know is that it damaged me then and haunts me now. i am grateful that i got out of that situation as soon as the law said i was old enough and i am even more grateful that my father lived many more years.

    i see no shame in taking one’s own life, although i have never considered this as an option for myself as of yet. my identity is very tied up in being a survivor, but i know that circumstances can change.

    hold onto each other and draw strength. the future as always remains out of our grasp.

    blessings upon you both,

  5. gblock says:

    My parents both signed living wills years ago requesting no “extraordinary measures”. My father is 92 and became seriously ill earlier this year. It turned out to be due to gallstones, and he is slowly improving. But my mother treats any problems that he has now as potentially the beginning of the end, so we shall see.

    Fortunately, dementia does not seem to run in my family.

    My husband, who has diabetes and other medical problems, has had a couple of hospitalizations during serious illnesses. He experienced some confusion and memory problems – not knowing what day it was, asking if I would go to church on a certain day when that day had actually passed, etcetera. This problem went away as he improved.

    Please don’t choose suicide because of memory loss without a medical workup. Some memory problems in an old person are common and not necessarily a sign of Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

    That said, I can understand the sentiment. I would hate the idea of sliding into Alzheimer’s and still being physically alive but gradually losing most of my self.

  6. O/T: A Fourth Circuit 3-judge panel decision struck down a school board policy barring a transgender male student from using the boys’ restrooms at his Virginia high school. Student was born female.

    The 4th Circuit covers Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

    This decision will also void out the NC statute, but may take awhile, if decision is stayed pending further review.

    The school board will probably ask for en banc review (by the whole court, which has 10 judges). Also, may petition SCOTUS for cert.

    Appeals Court Strikes Down Virginia School’s Anti-Trans Bathroom Policy

  7. On the one hand, who wants to wait for a horrible death? On the other hand, I’ve known two terminally-ill people who rushed their exit, and the effects on the survivors were profound, and profoundly awful.

    I would venture the thoughts that there may be a time to choose to exit, but also that it is hard to know the time and that it is best not to rush.

    My sympathies to you and yours.

  8. MichelleO says:

    GOING through this now. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. I try to hold on the best way I know how. I try to live as normally as possible. Nobody wants this, but all will do what they have to do when the time comes.

  9. I too have grappled with the parental exit situation. My father passed at 82 in 2010 while my mother was struggling with cancer. We didn’t think she would survive more than five years, but she’ll be 86 this summer and has had a high-quality life despite the cancer, due to the advanced drugs and cannabis. Many people in my family, if they take care of themselves, live into their 90s.

    Tibetan Buddhish philosophy has delved deeply into death and the after-death states. I would urge you to allow the death process to happen naturally. There is much happening that would be interrupted in what is essentially a suicide.

    I think people need to be less fearful about dying and especially a long and difficult dying process. My spiritual teacher, Garchen Rinpoche, a beloved lama of the Drikung Kagyu tradition, has always said that illness and a long dying process is a gift – that even a lifelong, chronic illness is a gift, because it purifies and makes it more likely that one attains enlightenment at death.

    In other words, many things in life are NOT what they seem to be, according to this philosophy. Assisted suicide may actually be the coward’s way out and deprive you of spiritual insight.

    Rinpoche also told us many stories of laypeople who were doing things like teaching on other planes as they lay dying, all the while their families fussed about “pulling the plug.” He says this period is essential for us, even though it may be either difficult for the dying – or difficult for families and friends.

    In fact, anything we don’t face in life we’re likely doomed to repeat in future lifetimes. I’m not taking any chances that I’m coming back to Samsara for any re-dos because I messed up this time, LOL! So, this girl is going to get through it all naturally and without interference.

    • MichelleO says:

      Life has thrown to many rocks at my face to ever be brave enough to take a ginormous boulder to the body. I’ve been brave in the past, but I will never be this brave. I will attempt to take the sting out of that boulder, if I am presented with such an end.

    • I’ve been thinking a lot lately about free will and responsibility to choose wisely. Better to choose than not to choose and be forced by circumstance to endure an unpleasant outcome. Relying on magical thinking for positive outcomes brought about by unseen forces is to surrender autonomy and choice. I feel myself evolving toward this perspective, however unrealistic it may be. Perhaps, we are slaloming past sharp rocks through white water rapids with little control. I’ve often felt out of control and exhilarated. I like that too. One of the reasons I love motorcycles.

      Whither thou goest, my lord speed?

      Color me confused.

  10. Elizabeth Kunibe says:

    I agreed with..in the past. I have gotten very ill several times and my mind changed. Holy! I snapped into the “I want to live mode” which surprised me. It is sometimes a different realm, sleep becomes heavenly, pain is dealt with all our human resources of thousands of years of survival. Your mind reverts to another time. Although, you a right many people just maintain their idea and goal. I saw a patch of light through the window, a sun portal, through the clouds on the lawn and I vowed that as soon as I got out of the hospital all I wanted to do was stand in those little patches of sunlight, and I did. Still here.

    We overcome so much in our lives some pain and confusion are probably the least we face.

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