“Babe, if I’m dead when you get back home, will you bury me under the aloe vera plants in the garden?”
My husband has the flu—thus he is dying. He’s in bed, feverish and miserable, but at least he still has his sense of humor. I giggle and I tell him that, if it’s okay with him, I’ll wait until it’s dark before I start digging so the neighbours don’t freak out.
Something tells me I won’t need to dig at all for now. As I’m on my way out, I see his beloved aloe vera plants in the garden and I know they will not be disturbed tonight.
Wouldn’t that be a beautiful death though, is my thought.
One day, while otherwise fit as a fiddle, you catch the flu, you make a joke, your wife laughs at it and then you die.
No suffering, no time to realize you are dying, no slow disintegration of your body, no putrefying infections eating away your flesh, no drugs dulling your senses, no tubes in your throat or needles sticking out of your arteries, no crying relatives by the side of your bed for weeks, months, years.
Death is not the scary part to me. It’s the possible pain that comes before it that I fear. Or maybe it’s not even the pain that I’m afraid of, but the fact that more often than not, we—intelligent beings—try to do everything we humanly can to prolong that pain.
In some of the countries where I spend a lot of time, the doctors and hospitals are simply not allowed to let you die. As long as they can keep your heart beating, they will do it. Regardless of the amount of machines needed to keep you going, regardless of what family and relatives want and even worse, regardless of what you wanted—when you were still conscious and lucid enough to voice your opinion.
(Note to self: do not almost die in those countries.)
A fatal car accident, an unexpected deadly stroke, a bungee jump gone wrong, a killer flu…terrible and traumatizing for friends and family, but the deceased can count his blessings. Minimal suffering and no time to regret anything.
I don’t want to rot away in a hospital bed with a tube protruding from every orifice in my body. I don’t want to be driven around in a wheelchair, leaking bodily fluid from all sides. I don’t want to be drugged with pills that will not only kill the disease but also my spirit and then some more pills against the side-effects of the first pills and then some other pills against the side-effects of the last pills.
There is nothing dignified and human about being kept alive by computers, drugs and artificial food. I’ve seen and heard it happen so often and I panic just thinking about it happening to me.
Don’t get me wrong. Medical science has developed some amazing life saving interventions. If an amputation and wheelchair are needed to keep me alive, but my spirit can remain unaffected, I’ll welcome the operation. If a triple bypass can get me back on my feet, allowing me to dance, jump, laugh and live again, I’ll gratefully accept. If never touching sugar, salt or sushi again is necessary to save my life and will give me years of health and happiness, I’ll comply without hesitation.
But don’t keep me alive when my essence wants to fly away.
Don’t feed my crippled body, when my soul wants to travel on.
Don’t trap me in a sickening prison that my spirit doesn’t deserve.
It’s not about being alive. It’s about being healthy enough to enjoy being alive.
If not, I choose death.
PS. Two days later and the husband is alive and kicking. The aloes will have to wait a bit longer for their fertilizer.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise