Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven…. Nobody Wants to Die………1/5/2012

January by

I had an unusually real dream the other night, one I wasn’t prepared to forget the details of it as quickly as I do with most.

Its theme was an attempt to go through with a decision to end my life of my own volition.

I had used an unspecified but powerful tranquilizer of some sort that would in a painless, unhurried but purposeful way bring about the planned result. The dream provided no preamble that I recall as to specifically why I’d embarked on this course.

Still, as I began to experience physical effects seemingly consistent with my objective I became quite fearful. One would, given the survival response deeply imbedded in us. I knew that could not be avoided. Even believing that we don’t fear death, cut off our air and we struggle for breath.

It was only at the point of something close to panic that it occurred to me that I might be dreaming and that so, even a dream this convincing might actually cause all some essential system to shut down.

I began to struggle against the grasp of it, as if I’d been too long under water  so deep that making it back to the surface was by no means certain.

When I did manage to will my eyes  open it was to find myself physically shaken as if I had indeed been too long deprived of oxygen.

It was a triggering kind of experience that brought to mind a number of things about which I might usefully write. One of my objectives on this site is to share my process of giving unbiased consideration to thoughts that I or others might afraid of, to explore and articulate my own evolving perspectives and to at least in that way confront the fear…..because it should be confronted.

Hence the title of this piece, itself the title for an oft-recorded song I recall as a blues, but which Google sources attribute to the country-music genre.

Twice recently I have posted in a small ad the title of a piece for which notes might exist but which had yet to be written. I did so with this piece. It’s scary, particularly when the topic can include matters folks are reluctant to deal with.

Conversations with chronological peers about our disinclination to suffer a long run of age-generated physical or mental debilitation on the way to our demise occur with some frequency. We are technically talking about suicide of course.

Being compelled by my own ad to write about it lickety-split brought up all kinds of my own fears. The fear of finding myself being gratuitously controversial not the least of them.

But more important in this matter was a fear of seeming to give the O.K. to suicide in general when what I am talking about is specific to people determining for themselves when to shake off the mortal coil. It needs a new name, to differentiate it from the far more obviously tragic.

I see it as an entirely personal choice. Does your religion forbid it or your reason reject it? Fine, it isn’t a choice you would make.

And….to give credit where due: We do support a kind of self-initiated departure in the passive form of living wills that refuse recourse to extreme medical procedures to sustain life.

Then I thought I might avoid that topic altogether and write only about fear of death and about the direness we attach to it…which I don’t.

I see it as being in the contract. We get to be born and to live and the deal is that we then are obliged to die. Those speculating that we might indefinitely put off fulfilling our end of the bargain are being, at the very least, a bit piggish.

While fear of dying  is a visceral thing and unavoidable for most if not all of us in the moment, anticipatory fear makes no sense to me. It smacks of self-victimization with the added detriment of accommodating exploitation.

As for grieving: If I am genuinely  moved to grieve, as I can be, I’ll do so.  But I have no inclination to make a show of it or present it in tribute to social obligation. Mostly around death I’m moved to acceptance.

My father did not want an extended convalescence. He left a living will. Perhaps taboos ingrained by a Catholic upbringing rejected as an adult still prevented him from orchestrating his own departure. A doctor, he could have easily managed it. Instead he deteriorated badly under the influence of what was thought to be a series of singly undramatic but cumulatively devastating strokes. Eventually, unable to speak, his eyes shone with the notable intelligence that informed most of his life and with the terrible humiliation of the condition he found himself in and hated. He was a deeply ethical man but not easy to love, though I loved him in my way. I was relieved when he died…..on his behalf.

Personally, I have no desire to stick around if I get a considerable way down with no reasonable prospect of climbing back up. I do not anticipate getting off the bus early because of depression, in its own right or associated with excessive pain, though I suppose that is always a possibility.

My interest in self-initiated departure (SID…is that one free?) does not arise out of a generally unhappy experience as a human being. There is much that I am grateful for, including at this point what has been learned from what was once distinctly uncomfortable.

I’ll enjoy what I get to experience of my children’s and grandchildrens’ independent lives from the perspective of having a legitimate one of my own. I will not feel obligated to stick around to be a sidebar to their lives, particularly one that generates any form of pity or merely accommodates their caretaking sentiments.

Fortunately I have lived an interesting and active life animated by a range of capacities.  It makes the prospect of carrying on with little or no chance of continuing in my own fashion to do so all the more pointless. The idea that we might be somehow legitimately obligated to carry on because loved ones will miss us, or believe they will, or will actually mourn our departure doesn’t resonate for me. You are going to go at some point, presumably generating those responses anyway.

My hope is that they would be short-lived and that my kin would get on with their lives as joyfully as they can, hopefully liberated to some extent by what I am able to leave them and completely from loss of a substantial portion of that to sustaining my existence beyond the point of reason or my own desire.

I don’t obsess on this topic. But I found myself pondering it on occasion over the years. In fact on my first CD, called Pulling for The Woods, made a couple of decades back, I threw this little song into the mix, just for fun.  For some reason it didn’t get a whole lot of radio play.

[audio: http://www.johnmarian.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Hang-on-Folks-.mp3|titles=Hang on Folks]

 

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