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Senior Contributor

How do do you want to die?

Do you want to drop over in an instant from a heart attack or accident, maybe painless or very short pain but without any time to change anything?  Or do you want to know you are going to die soon, such as from cancer, where you can make some plans and take action but death may be emotionally distressing and physically painful?

 

If you would rather have a no-notice, fast death, are you ready for it now?  Why not?  Do you think you won't die at all?

 

I had a casual friend, full time worker in town and part time farmer, who died of cancer recently.  He had about 18 months of knowing, hoping, fighting, trying, accepting and dying.  He was 56.  He bought cattle fairly recently, maybe hoping against hope during the period when he was being treated.

 

Finally, he picked out his casket and had them add some padding so it wasn't so hard to lie on.  He had his tombstone made with an Oliver 77 on one side and some scripture on the other.

 

Was he better off having time to prepare for his death?  Some terminal diseases are quite predictable and some are very hard to give a timeline on.  Who know if you'll have time to set up the trust, write the will, sell the junk machinery, get rid of the cattle and so forth?

 

would you rather die a fast, painless death or a slow but painful one?

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34 Replies
Honored Advisor

Re: How do do you want to die?

Mike and I just had this conversation yesterday...a lot I guess because I had made the decision last week to let my dog pass here at home, rather than chasing around to find an emergency vet hours from home on the holiday.  So, the subject has been on our minds. 

I knew when I got home that evening that she was on her way out, and I had an idea how long it would  take, after her crisis fifteen months prior, and what I'd learned about her illness since.  She was not expected to live as long as she did, by far.  I guess borrowed time is great if you are oblivious to its nature. 

I chose not to haul her to a stranger, and sat with her and petted her and talked to her until she gave up.  She had been in gorgeous condition that morning when I left, or I would not have gone on a day trip...but, we had already agreed not to put her through another course of such difficult treatments. 

Mike said she had played outside all day, and looked like the picture of health the whole time.  Her decline was lightning fast that evening, and she was gone very quickly.  She felt lousy for maybe 4-5 hours, and it would have taken us much of that time to find a vet to put her out only a bit sooner, at the end of a long ride and in a clinical setting.  We opted for here at home on her favorite quilt, peacefully.   

It was still a hard choice to make. 

He said yesterday that he'd like to go the way she did, at the end of a perfect day. I said I'd probably like to go like my uncle Clint, who dropped dead of a heart attack after dinner out with my aunt.  The doctors said he was dead of the heart attack before he hit the floor.  I guess we do not all get that simple a solution. 

Another uncle of mine died after a protracted decline involving strokes, and months of no food by mouth due to trouble swallowing.  He scandalized his wife by stealing a peach from his nursing home roommate. 

 I said, "Let him eat the damned peach..."

After a couple of clinical rotations at nursing homes for nursing school, I told Mike recently that if I ever hear the kids whispering about taking me to one, he will find me with a cinder block tied to my foot in the deep end of the pool.  He said he understood, and simply asked me to please leave a note, so he would not be implicated in foul play.  I said I would put it under a rock on the deck. 

I've observed friends fighting like hell to beat cancer, winning the occasional battle, but eventually  losing the war.  We heard a friend's niece passed this way recently, and there was dispute in the family about whether or not to call in hospice, to hospitalize her, or let her stay in the nursing home with no hydration.  I say if someone has advance directives, they ought to be honored. 

Honestly, one of my objectives in studying healthcare is to learn more about this phase of life, and how to end it if it is indeed too hard to bear.  I want to be able to know if some care provider is being reasonably optimistic, or is simply using me and my insurance benefits for a money tree.  I want to know when to fight, and when to say, "Enough!"

I believe there is another incarnation beyond this one, and that our souls will meet again; so, this is not all there is...not nearly all.  Once you are okay with that, then it is merely a matter of time, and making the most of every day.   

Our last lecture this semester in nursing was on death and dying, and how we as RNs will be legally empowered to pronounce a death.  Our instructor, an older career nurse who's done this countless times, says it is still not an easy thing to do. 

I think about that scene in "Thinking In Pictures,"  where the Temple Grandin character says, "Where did it go?"  You've pointed to the two extremes of passing, and there are all sorts of pain and presence in between. 

As for us, the wills are written, the trusts established and ready to enact, and the kids have started moving the junk metal here to the recyclers and are using it to fund some nice things for the fourteenth generation of American family farmers coming into this family. 

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Contributor

Re: How do do you want to die?

I thought about this subject quite a bit this past week. A high school classmate passed last weekend. The first from our class since graduation 34 years ago, from a class of 44. She had cancer surgery this past fall and started chemo treatments a couple of weeks ago, was doing well, New Years morning  told her husband she didnt feel well and was gone in 30 minutes. They figure a blood clot from surgery moved and did her in. At the wake I heard people say "At least she didnt suffer" and this is a gift in some ways. The tradeoff is she didnt get say those last goodbyes, or make her final wishes known. We think we can prepare those wishes ahead of time, but with the grim reaper walking toward us we have the option of tweeking things a bit. But we may have to suffer on the way.

My preference would be to see it coming, without suffering and still have time to get things in order. We tend to worry about business here on earth when we should be getting our spiritual business in order. I need to keep reminding myself to be ready spiritually because death may come like a thief in the night.

 

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Contributor

Re: How do do you want to die?

kay, the story of your pets passing just tore me up. I have seen so much death and different ways to go I am tired of it, but your dog had a great place to live, and finally die. 

 

we should all be so lucky as to have our most trusted friend next to us when we go.

 

 

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Advisor

Re: How do do you want to die?

Thank you.  I loved that beautiful mutt. 

She was a Christmas pound puppy our youngest kid dragged home four years ago.  She fell critically ill in October of 2009, and survived with a lot of veterinary attention.  Worth every second and every cent.

I learned a lot from her, including this last, hard lesson. 

A new stray adopted us about a month or so ago.  She showed up on the stoop of the vacant house in front of the farm, where the neighbor lady had died over three years ago.

She is turning out to be a good dog...young and feisty, quite a handful, but a lot of fun.  I feel fortunate that I married a man who is too kind-hearted to drive past a cold, starving animal...but feels he has to stop and bring it home. 

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Contributor

Re: How do do you want to die?

you're welcome. You both are lucky.

 

I must have been dropped from the same flying saucer as your husband.

 

All our pets are walk ons, and all have been spayed or nuetered with all shots. every one is different.

 

Thanks again for the story.

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Senior Advisor

Re: How do do you want to die?

Tell us where you live. I don't want to accidently wander on to your property. 

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Senior Contributor

Re: How do do you want to die?

Soilent green style. Take a painless little pill in a large 3-d movie theatre with my fav Clint Eastwood dirty Harry show playing.

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Contributor

Re: How do do you want to die?

I want to live til 90 and then get shot by a jealous husband. I guess that would be in the quick and relatively painless category.
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Veteran Advisor

Re: How do do you want to die?

Jim I have seen people die slowly with disease and I would be selfish and choose the quick painless way. That would be easy for me but of course harder on family nad friends because of the shock of my death (well I like to think they would be shocked and disappointed).

One thing though is we do not usually have a choice. At least not if we are rational because some can not face life any longer and take their own lives, not always quick and painless.

 

Am I prepared? No I have to admit we need to update our wills. As some one said I expect to live to be 90 and so far it has worked out.

 

tSumbra; you need to pick the right 'jealous husband' as some might make that departure from life rather slow and unpleasant.

 

4wd; I have a neighbour couple years older than me who says if it comes to him or his wife going into a nursing home they are going to get a big box of Timbits (that is the doughnut 'holes' that Tim Hortons coffee shops sell here in Canada) a large Double Double and let the car run in the garage while they enjoy them.

If he carries that out I will regret not 'turning him in' or maybe I will just say you did as you wanted C&D. 

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