Happy to die now? Surprisingly,
Now, is of course, my 86 th year.
No commiserations needed. I am not in any way ill, actually quite fit.
I don’t wish my life to end, enjoy it too much.
However, at 80+ you have lost family, many friends and neighbours. You know, quite starkly, that it could happen. Any day soon.
How odd! All of us ancient people are living with a death sentence. Absolutely normal, yet no one talks about it! Why?
I decided to do a bit of talking, asking friends my age what they thought.
The first finding was that almost no one minded the idea of life ending.
A surprising number said they were ready to go.
They didn’t mean this week they added hastily, too much to do and a granddaughter’s wedding, etc. “They need me.” and “I can’t bear to leave them” was of course part of every conversation.
But the inevitability and the acceptance was quietly there.
Most felt pleased with their lives, rather chuffed to have got to these later years and have coped with the various ups and downs. Made it!
We seem to have acquired a healthier view of death too. It is no longer seen as a possibility of purgatory and hell. For most, that sad worry has happily disappeared.
Going to heaven only featured where those I asked were staunch believers. One agnostic was rather hoping that that she would be proved wrong and that an afterlife did exist. Not to be with a God, she assured me, but just so she could guarantee to find out what happened in our new Post Covid future and how a, beloved but difficult, grandchild turned out!
The Greek philosopher, Epicurus, would have been pleased with this fresh outlook. In 300 BC Greece people were afraid of the gods: fear of death and the underworld was a major concern. Placatory sacrifices were essential!
Epicurus sought to reassure them. He was one of the first people to talk and teach about atoms, a very new idea then. He said in effect:
“We are made of a temporary cluster of atoms. Once we die we turn back into loose atoms. They don’t disappear. They go on forever and get recycled into say a flower, a cloud or butterfly. What is to fear about that?”
I like it. Love the thought that all the people who ever lived are still around us in reshaped forms.
But in my questioning there was a second finding.
Older people may be well adjusted to the idea of death, but they are not at all happy at the thought of the dying stage!
Everyone, unanimously, feared it. The process they felt was out of their control, and decidedly scary.
Something wrong here?
Dying should not be like that. And it doesn’t need to be.
Why are letting other people decide for us?
It is our life. It should be our choice, under our control!
The answer is for us all to make a living will.
Discuss it with our family and our Doctor, but in the end make it our own decision.
A living will usually contains The Five Wishes:
Wish 1. The person I want to make Care decisions for me when I cant.
This is called health care power of attorney. This person makes medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to speak for yourself.
Wish 2. The kind of medical treatment I want or don’t want.
This is a living will—a definition of what life support treatment means to you, and when you would and would not want it.
Wish 3. How comfortable I want to be.
This addresses matters of what type of pain management you would like, personal grooming and bathing instructions, and whether you would like to know about options for hospice care.
Wish 4. How I want people to treat me.
This speaks of personal matters, such as whether you would like to be at home and whether you would like someone to pray at your bedside.
Wish 5. What I want my loved ones to know.
This deals with matters of forgiveness, how you wish to be remembered, and final wishes regarding funeral or memorial plans.
Time for change? Talk openly about death and dying?
Time for us all to take charge of our lives?
Right to the end?