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Friday, March 18, 2005

On Dying with Dignity . . .

Readers of this blog know by now that Lawrence Henry is one of my favorite writers. He's got a great combination of life experience and ability to communicate it. When I think of him I'm reminded of the old Kevin Costner film "Revenge." In one scene, he and an old dealer in horseflesh are on their way through dangerous territory to make a sale. The worn-out old cowboy turns to Costner, sweating with some unknown malady, puts on his sunglasses and asks, "How do I look?" Costner replies, "Like a survivor." That's Lawrence Henry.

Here' a bit from his latest:

Terri Schiavo's case becomes a soap opera over her mostly inert body while the state legal establishment of Florida decides whether or not to "pull the plug" -- in this case, to remove her feeding tube. Even someone minimally aware, it seems to me, should not be subject to involuntary starvation and dehydration.

And one of this year's Oscar-winning movies depicts a supposedly "heroic" struggle wherein a crippled young female boxer persuades her wise, homely old trainer to...kill her. No, I haven't gone to see it, and won't. I've been too close.

Back in 1975, when my native kidneys failed, I got horribly sick all at once, not unusual with kidney failure. I had percarditis, couldn't walk well, had lost mental focus, had recently gone through a series of grand mal seizures related to an infection, can't remember what all, and it's probably just as well.

I found myself seriously considering whether or not to end it all -- to the extent that I was contemplating methods. Grace intervened, however, and I realized that people who think that way really aren't sane, and I asked to see a therapist. It hardly mattered who I talked to, but it did work.

Three things I remember from when my friends came to visit me in the hospital. One thing they all said later: "I thought you were going to die." To which I used to say, "If I ever get out of here, I'm going to get a motorcycle."

And the other was waking up at various times in my hospital bed, seeing my mother, always faithfully there, no matter what.

It is too damned easy to be cavalier and heroic about "dying with dignity" when somebody else is doing the dying.

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