I've just returned from visiting a friend at the hospital who's lying next to death. And, as usual, I'm wondering why we treat our fellow man with such callousness.
John is 91 years of age. He's had a fine run and life owes him nothing.
Until a couple of months ago, John was an upright Scot about whom we all said, "Man, if I can live to be that age, sure hope I can master it like John does."
But John's not mastering anything anymore. He's very near life's end. He'll only leave the hospital one way. His dignity is shot. This proud, always well turned-out man who wore a toupee to disguise his balding pate now lies, semi-conscious, without the hairpiece. ("It's to do with avoiding infection," sez the hospital spokesperson. Huh?) He hasn't shaved in a couple of months and has lost a ton of weight as cancer destroys his body, bit by bit. His breathing is laboured. His eyes are open, but they see nothing.
John looks no better than some disheveled rummy off the streets.
It breaks my soul just to look at him. To hear his awful, labored attempts to gasp at breath. I squeezed his hand and said "Scotland the Brave" when I took my leave, and there was a momentary spark in his eyes that suggests he recalled something from his past. But I just know this is not the way John wanted to make his exit. Just lying there, getting worse and worse, day after day after day, unable any longer to communicate.
Why can't we take pity on John and give him a pill to end this nonsensical denouement softly, quietly? Oh yeah, I've heard all the religious pieties and the worries by "caring" folks about euthanasia. That's B.S., and I'm calling you on it. You're the same do-gooders who seem to think it's just fine that individuals who find life too much must end their time in a shower of violence. (You know, like being forced to splatter their guts about as Kurt Cobain did by putting a bullet in his brain; or stringing a belt around his neck and over a beam to choke himself to death by hanging as Robin Williams did; or jumping from the window of her apartment to the busy street below as singer Susannah McCorkle did). Surely, when life decides to pay you no favors, your exit should not be shrouded in violence. Can't you do-gooders see that not everyone wants to go your way? Can't you have respect for those who just want to leave their way? You know, with some dignity left. Surely, when life decides to pay you no favors, your exit should not be shrouded in violence.
Sorry, but my visit with John today just broke my soul, and I can't sit by and not write about it.