Royce Shook

3 years ago · 2 min. reading time · visibility 0 ·

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Facing Death

I had just returned from a Celebration of Life for the wife of a friend, who had made the decision to undertake Physician-Assisted Suicide (legal in Canada) and was struck by the support her family had given her in that decision. My friend told me that at first, he resisted what she wanted to do, but after she came back from the latest time in the hospital and became very honest with the family about what she was going through, he supported her decision. The whole family supported her decision. We all die, but coming to grips with this is very difficult for all of us.

One of the blogs I read and very much enjoy is called Time Goes By. The author of this blog has been fighting cancer and recently went into remission, however, she just posted that her cancer has come back and this time the chemotherapy will not stop it, but only slow down its progress. That is very sad news for he and her family, friends and the thousands of us who read and enjoy her writing. 

She has realized that she will soon die, and so at this point, she is in relatively good humour, if her blog post is any indication. She says: 

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Because I know that regular and fairly heavy exercise goes a long way toward staying healthy in old age, I've been doing that (with the exception of the months of recovery after the surgery) five mornings out of seven for six or seven years - and I despised every moment of it. Now there is no reason and I am relieved.

Another upside is that I don't have to worry about dementia anymore. No more of those little online tests about what are normal memory problems and what are not. Whew. I'm glad to be done with that too.

I'm sure that in the coming days and weeks I'll find some other things I can happily leave behind.

So what should I do with the time left to me? Yeah, yeah, I know – everyone is dying every day but believe me, I now know that it is quite a different thing from that abstract platitude to a closely defined period of time.

She goes on to say and with more courage than I might have, 

My main daily occupation is this blog and its subject – what it is like to grow old. I've been doing this for about 15 years and still am not tired of it. It feels a lot like the years I was employed – going to work every day doing something that I enjoy.

Five days into my new circumstance now, I have decided to keep doing these things as if I had all the time in the world. That may change in the weeks and months to come and if so, I'll figure out then what is next.

For now, from time to time I will write here about this final journey hoping that what could be taken as overly self-indulgent might, for some readers, be of possible value as another person's way of approaching the end of life.

Another quotation that has helped drive my life is from the British writer, E.M. Forster. I discovered it when I was in my twenties realizing then that it describes perfectly how my mind worked and still works:

”How do I know what I think until I see what I say.”

For me, it takes writing it down (on paper or, these days, on a screen) to know with any clarity what I think and believe. So writing for you is also for me and will help me work out this frightening last mile or two.

If you have not had the opportunity I recommend that you go visit her blog. I will continue to read her and hope that medical advances will take place that will help in her journey. 

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Royce Shook

3 years ago #4

#3
John, I think your last thought is very sobering.

John Rylance

3 years ago #3

The older we get the more we wonder how much of a future we have. The best we can do is set targets. For instance reach 50 years married, enjoy retirement, visit relatives, see grandchildren marry etc.  I have known several seriously ill people set themselves a target, achieve it, and shortly after pass away. Incidentally I came across this statement, which made me pause for a moment to digest the implications. In 120yrs time nobody who is alive today will still be alive. It's a sobering thought.

Royce Shook

3 years ago #2

#1
Ian, thank you for sharing your interesting ideas about facing death.

Ian Weinberg

3 years ago #1

I would contend that life and it’s quality are promoted by mind states of meaningfulness, purposeful ness and curiosity. This is manifest as ‘gratifying busyness’. Conversely, death approaches with mind states of increasing hopeless-helplessness. I would propose however that keeping the cup full of meaning, purpose and curiosity is not really a choice, but rather represents all that we uniquely are - a combination of our nature-nurture origins and the life narrative that followed. With such powerful determining influences, free choice is just an illusion - it’s just a throw of the dice! My humble approach: Savour and support the gratifying moments, accept the life sapping situations and maintain sensitivity and empathy for fellow humans who find themselves in the inevitable down cycles.

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