TO THE EDITOR:
To Colin Affleck: I was moved by your letter (At the End. February 15th) and would like to offer you my feedback.
You were considering your “right” to choose the circumstances of your death on a February evening, sitting by the fire, drinking a glass of something good, while you curse the cold, dark and “criminal” weather outside. Especially not knowing “what will kill you” and facing the great mystery of how and when you will die has inspired you to consider ways to take control of the situation. You describe the perfect scenario: the good food, the jokes with congenial company and the peaceful fading away… when you decide it is time. That would be “better” than what some inscrutable greater power might have in store for you.
I invite you to consider the same subject on an early June morning as the sun rises, the birds are chirping their hearts out and a soft breeze caresses your face. Consider planning your death when you are humbled by the magnificence and immensity of a clear night sky. Think about how and when to die you look into the sparkling eyes of a small child.
Maybe you have not contemplated the fact that you are not alone. You are like a tree in an ecosystem that is intertwined with your existence. Have you considered the effect on your environment when you decide to take the unnatural way out? There is nothing in nature that decides to end its own life. That is only the hubris of mankind. We humans do things just because we can… but look at the results.
You paint a disturbing picture of old age (“warehousing”, the indignity and endless ennui of waiting for the end), but you don’t have to do that, do you? You have a choice. You have the total freedom to be a light unto others, to bravely master your discomforts, to be grateful for every minute you are alive, even if it is the last thing you do. That would be a worthy legacy, instead of joking about denying anyone “financial benefits”.
Luckily, I have met many such glorious people in long-term care facilities, palliative care wards, in private care and just holding their space in our community. It is said that we die as we were born. If someone was born by Caesarean section while their mother “felt nothing” thanks to an epidural, then it is understandable that person would feel we must “do something” about dying to avoid any discomfort. My mother said I just slithered out like a snake…so I am confident that I will slither easily into the womb of the Universe when my time comes.
Please consider the options, Colin, and grant yourself the best possible end.