The Good Death

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My coworker came to me today to talk about a paper she was going to write for a class. The subject of the paper was “when and how do you want to die?”.

It got me thinking of not how I want to die, but how I, decidedly, did NOT want to die.

Death by fire was at the top.

I don’t want to asphyxiate, either.

I don’t want to malinger and suffer or be a burden on anyone. I’m a big believer in the DNR order.

But death rarely deals on someone’s terms.

I’ve had a handful of death incidents in my life. I lost my great grandparents when I was little, but I also didn’t see them much.

My first real experience with death was two weeks before my 18th birthday. My best friend from childhood was hit by a car and killed. I remember it was all around a difficult time. My family home was being foreclosed upon because my mom liked meth more than mortgage payments. I had to go live with my (maternal) nana until I finished high school. When my dad told me, I was quiet. Then he told me I would have to live with and I broke down. He berated me about crying.

“It’s not that bad.”

“Quit that crying shit”

“Stop being so dramatic”

And I said between sobs, “I can’t believe Michelle is dead.”

Then it hit my dad. He’s a man that isn’t ashamed to cry. And he broke down and cried with me.

My second experience with death was my other (paternal) nana’s husband. They had been together since before I was born, and for all intents and purposes, he was my grandfather. But, we called him “Uncle Bill”.

He came home from a bicycle ride and in the living room collapsed — heart attack and stroke. The second he hit the floor, he knew no more. He was on life support for a few days while in a coma. My other nana pulled the plug. He lingered on for a few more days, then passed away.

And then, my PawPaw died.

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He wasn’t my biological grandfather, but like my paternal nana, they’d been together since before I had even been thought of. He was on chemo on and off for five years before passing away. He did hospice at home. My nana begged me to come see him before he passed. At the time I lived four hours away and was attending graduate school. My brother insisted I didn’t.

“You don’t want to see him like this. He’s not in his right mind. He wont recognize you.”

So I didn’t. They gave him the phone. I told him it was me. Told him that I loved him.

He passed away a few days later, in his own bed, surrounded by people who loved him.

Funny thing was…. it was in Atlanta… in the middle of an ice storm. They couldn’t get the coroner out there or hospice, so they had to call EMS.

Little things. He was always one to make a statement.

Then there was my cousin, Brooke, whose passing I discussed in The Suicidals.

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That was hard.

So, for me, a good death would be on my terms, if I were to malinger. Or it would be quick.

I don’t want to be buried.

If we can afford it, I want to be cremated. No fancy service. Just pick up my ashes. Bring them to the house and have a party. Bring covered dishes. Talk about the good times. Drink coldbeer and scotch. No dressing up; look like you normally would.

If we can’t afford it, donate me to science. And still have a party.

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