This is the second posting on my new blog series topic about Death & Dying. So, if you missed yesterday’s post, be sure to read it too. Such a fine, universal subject as our own demise… which everyone is so fascinated by, and so afraid of.
Hey people! Lighten up! Death is one of the most important activities of Life and we keep sweeping it under the rug.
How do YOU feel about it? What do YOU have to say to your family about these matters? You might want to say it now, while you can still talk and think rationally. And if you don’t know exactly how you feel about some of the practices connected with death and dying, it would certainly behoove you to find out, long before you are automatically laid upon the knee-jerk conveyor belt which this society has, so conveniently, constructed to handle everything connected with the end of life and our ultimate “resting place.”
Might you have caught a whiff of the economics behind those medical and funereal engines? My reasons for avoiding them are rooted in the more ethereal, spiritual-consequences, area; but those Big Business Practices are right up there, on my objection list, too. I don’t necessarily wish to provide somebody else with more bang for the buck on my way out. Don’t I sound cynical? Oh yeah!
On August 4, 2004, my daughter, her husband, and two small children, were coming to Florida for a visit. So I wrote out the following two-page instruction letter to give to them, as well as to my son. I don’t remember having any deep conversations about it, but I’m sure I explained what I was handing them. Today, I couldn’t find my copy, but my son still had one, stapled to my Will, so that was still working as planned. Reading over this, I don’t see many changes to make, but if I do add anything, I’ll write it in italics here, so we can see how much upgrading five years can bring. The title of this document is the same as the title of this blog. Okay, here we go:
“Our family will be gathered together over the next few weeks, so this would be a good time to set out my wishes as clearly as possible, in the event that I should become ill or die, either on my travels or in the future. Since we can’t anticipate all of the possibilities, I trust that you will be able to recognize the underlying principles and come up with your own interpretation, which will remain true to my intentions, if things don’t exactly fit these descriptions.
Let’s say that I become injured in some way. I don’t object to surgery to remove bullets, fence posts, or other such foreign objects that have, accidentally, entered my body. Nor do I object to the sewing up of gaping wounds or the splinting of broken bones. But, I do strenuously object to heroic measures to prolong my life when the end is right there, waiting for me, and I would object to the above surgery if it is quite clear that there is no ultimate hope of survival, anyway. Patch me up a bit, give me pain medication, nutrition, and water, to a reasonable extent (not simply to maintain a comatose body), and let me be, either to heal on my own, or to die a natural death.
You may donate my organs to those who need them.
I am healthy and happy and totally in my right mind. Here is my absolute and firm decision on medical treatment, (surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and any other technique that may be invented in the future) for any condition, such as a tumor or cancer, or other forms of radically-feared diseases which might crop up in my body at any time: I far, far, far prefer taking my chances with whatever has been meted out to me, than to go under the knife, or have the administration of other powerful healing methods, which would turn me into a “patient,” immediately, with a percentage of a chance to recover, even to the point of health which I had, while simultaneously hosting the suspicious undiscovered tissue. I shall amend this to say that I will leave myself free to make whatever decision I wish to make in these matters, should they ever arise, if my mind is still in charge of my affairs at that time. But, if the mind has gone, and someone else is thrust into this sort of a decision; then for heavens sakes, do not prolong the inevitable, if it has delivered itself to my door! I do not buy into future promises of escape from the downward slope into death.
Because frankly, I am very attracted to that steep pitch and I do not fear what is at the bottom. Or, the top, to better fit my interpretation of it. I look forward to that day. Not that I’m not enjoying my time on Earth with you, my family. I am! But, I have lived a very good life and am ready to leave this planet at any moment. That’s not an escape wish. It’s simply a healthy outlook. At the same time, I have tremendous confidence in the healing power of my own body, and have had many experiences along that line. So, should I get into a rather helpless place, I do not want to have to fight the do-gooders off alone. I will need you to step in and defend my right to let what will happen, happen.
You are not to have any feelings of guilt about this. That is the emotion that this society tries to whip us all into. Well, let’s have none of that! It’s very badly misplaced, often by people who feel quite impersonal about the poor soul who is at the center of the attention. They track along, according to their training, their habit, their quota for the week, or whatever else motivates them. That is none of our business. We are none of their business. For me, as far as they are concerned, less is definitely more. And, none is best of all.
But, we live in this world, and as we weaken, we become fodder for the professionals in the services which have grown up around this need to serve the elderly. That’s good and bad. Much is good, and I am enjoying my senior citizenship and all the perks that it entitles me to. But, if I could orchestrate my death, it wouldn’t happen here. It would happen in some country that takes death more in stride. Where they do not consider it “The Enemy,” to be held at bay, at all costs. My little dream is, that while I wander the world, I will be searching for that gentle hospice where I can arrange to go when the end seems nigh, and they will give me a cot and meals, a little something for the pain, and hold my hand, sometimes. And let me do it my way.
One thing I do know is that I will move mountains not to wind up on either of your shoulders. That would not make any of us happy. So again, let go of the emotions which the world says that you should have about these things. If there is this much under my control at those end times for me, let me go with your happiness, to my secluded dying spot, or find one for me nearer by, if the long distance plan isn’t going to work. Home is not the best idea, if it means that same old bedroom your Dad (my ex) died in. You know how it is. So, I’m sleeping in it now, to be here for Randy’s sake, but I really don’t want to have to die in it.That would be too strange. How about renting a little cabana on the beach? Put the money into the swan song, instead of hospitals and funeral homes? Or if I’m really out of it, send me to a nursing home where they don’t call you Dearie, but let you do your own thing. And Hospice is a very good idea. They’re not afraid of Death!
And then comes the burial stuff. The general principle here is also, “Less is More.” No embalming, no cremation. And the new one for this modern age – no Plastination. If I die overseas, see if they will let me stay in their earth. If not, then okay. I apologize to you for the inconvenience.
I sure did like that article about Green Graveyards, which are springing up, more and more. There is one in Florida, somewhere. We do have a family plot in the old Winter Haven cemetery, and that’s okay, I guess, but I’m not all that wild about it. Look at me, ready to toss off my body, but trying to hold out for shade, for heaven’s sakes! Go figure! And I sure do like the idea of a pine box or a cloth wrapping – meaning, keep it simple. Also, there seems to be something good about being able to “return our molecules to the soil” in the swiftest way possible.
In 2004, I suggested the following: I have no idea if the restaurant is still there, or if Sam still owns it. Must check that out someday, but you get the picture: If you want to hold a Memorial Service, then I think that the Fathoms Restaurant, on Indian Rocks Beach, would be just fine. I graduated from high school with Sam Masaino, the owner, and it’s a very pretty place. Good food, too. I’m working on plucking some things out of my journal to share for readings. Woops, better get onto that pretty soon. Just have a good time and laugh a lot. That will make me very happy.
So, getting into life. Then, getting through life. Then, getting out of life… all with grace and dignity… is a very tall order. And, I count on you, my dear, dear children, to help me to do it well. The simpler, the less frantic, the less worried and fraught, the better.
I love you all, very much!
Mom, aka Linda Jeanne Dickinson Brown
August 4, 2004 and August 30, 2009
To my blog readers: Please stay tuned for more interesting comments on the subject of death & dying. I’m on a roll now.