Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Life and death

I've always figured that if I don't die suddenly in an accident or by some freak sickness, I'll probably die by suicide. Now, don't go getting all worried...I'm not depressed at the moment, and I'm not thinking of taking my life anytime in the near future.  But I've always thought that I'd rather move on to the next life instead of being sick or old, wasting precious resources and being a burden to others, or not being in control of my body or mind and being able to live a quality life.  I've been thinking more about this lately because of my grandpa.  He's in his late eighties or early nineties and recently was in the hospital because he fell and broke his hip in a couple of places.  He can't get around very well on his own, is going blind and deaf, and has a hard time remembering who people are.  At first they weren't sure if he was going to make it, since a hip injury in people that age can be pretty serious, but he recovered enough to get out of the hospital. My grandma decided that she would need to put him in a nursing home until he gets better since she wouldn't be able to manage his needs.  This was a very hard decision, and she knew that he wouldn't want to be there.  I can't speak for my grandpa, but if it were me in that situation I would probably rather move on to the next phase of existence rather than be in a nursing home.  Apparently he is lonely and depressed and angry.  I would be too.

This might sound pretty callous, but in a way, it's not really my grandpa that's in the nursing home.  It's a broken, weak shell of a body that doesn't work very well anymore, and a mind that is only there part-time. It's the remains of a man that has lived a long, fulfilling life. It's not the World War II veteran who spent time in a Japanese prison camp. It's not the caring father who raised 6 daughters and 1 son.  It's not the architect that designed and built his own house. It's not the grandpa that would play with me when I was a child, letting me run the controls of his model train set or look at his coin collection that he hid in a secret compartment in a wall.  That man is long gone. Or if not gone, imprisoned in a physical body that will only continue to deteriorate.

I'm glad I don't have to make decisions about what to do about my grandpa. I dread having to make decisions in the future about my own parents. But for me, I know that I don't want to get to the point of others having to make decisions. When I get to the point of not being able to make my own decisions, I don't want to be around any more.  I'd rather end my life on my own terms and move on while I still have the capacity to say goodbye.  That might seem selfish -- I would be leaving behind people that care about me and probably don't mind taking care of my needs. But at the same time, wouldn't it selfish of others to keep me around in my pain and suffering, just because they don't want to let me go? Especially if who I am is pretty much already gone, and it's just my shell hanging on to life? Wouldn't it be more compassionate to let me move on to whatever comes next before it gets to that point?


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