Dying with Dignity

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A friend of mine’s mom died a couple days ago and I’ve been thinking about it since.  Death is a tricky subject to get you head around.  People, our society in general really tries to avoid even thinking about death until it stares us in the face.

My friend’s mom was out gardening one day, started feeling bad, went to bed and never woke up.  She went into  a coma and died less than 2 days later.  She was 92.  For me, in our society, it was a very good death.  But not storybook.

The storybook death for her would have been that she was out gardening, layed down for a nap and then never woke up, which was very close to what happened.  But in our society, she couldn’t just lay down and die with dignity with her family.

In our society, she get rushed by an ambulance to a hospital, then goes through testing, a MRI, multiple blood screening, etc. until they find out what was the matter with her.  What ended up being the matter with her was that she was 92 and her body was done.

I remember reading somewhere that something like 30% of all medicare dollars are spent in the last two weeks on a patients life.  That number seems incredibly high.  And when you think about it, it really seems like a waste.  But how do you change it?  I don’t have that answer.

Most people feel that they want to live longer, much longer.  And they will do anything in their power to try to stay alive.  They expect to be taken care of the same at 92 as they are when they are 22.  And since this is the majority feeling, our healthcare system nearly does just that.

I’m not sure why more people, here in the US, don’t just die naturally.  By naturally, I mean at home with their family.  Very, very few people actually die at home.  I don’t know exactly the percentage of people, but it can’t be very big.  The answer is probably very complicated.

I wonder what percentage of people, again, here in the US, die with a IV in their arm?  It has to be huge.  We always seem to rush our sick people to the hospital, even when they are terminally ill, to do that last ditch effort to extend life.  Even if it is just for a day or two.

This is probably the most I’ve consciously thought about death, minus the times when pets die.  I think of it a lot when I lose a pet.  I’ve made up a little religious scenario where all my pets live on, together, and have a perfect life together,  forever.  I doubt this really happens, but it is my way to deal with the big void left when a good friend dies.

I think I’m going to aspire to die without an IV tube in me.  I’m going to try to not die in a hospital.  I would like to die somewhere beautiful doing something that I love to do.  I guess this sort of implies I’d like to die through an accident.  I haven’t thought it through that good, but I’m not against dying accidentally.   It is more appealing to me than laying around and wasting away from disease.

But, alas, we don’t get that choice.  Death has its own agenda, we are at its will.  We should try to figure out a way to deal with it more dignified.

Matt Kenyon right to die





22 thoughts on “Dying with Dignity

  1. Biffbradford

    Make sure that as you age, have your wishes made known to people that know you so if you become unable to speak for yourself then others can carry on your wishes. Better yet, put it in writing.

  2. JB

    Yes. Better yet, put it in a legal document, not just in writing, and give copies to your wife, doctors, kids, and maybe a few close friends (as applicable).

    And good morning!

  3. Jeff D.

    My grandmother lived to be 104, she lived at home by herself till she was 96 (my dad would check on her 2 x per day) she fell one night and broke her hip and spent the last 8 years in a nicer nursing home (if there is anything). I remember her telling me in a sad voice that her last friend had died and that she had nobody else left other than her children and grandchildren, that her sisters, brothers, husband, mother, father, and all friends had all died. Her mind was still sharp, her body was broken. One night she went to sleep and just never woke up, Dad called me up and told me granny had died, we were not sad but happy that she was back with them. She died a great way, just lived to long..

  4. channel_zero

    As cyclists, if you don’t have a living will, get one. Also, carry a bit more accident insurance for uninsured drivers.

  5. joriverdog

    “I don’t mind dying…I just don’t want to be there when it happens”….Woody Allen.
    I am getting long in the tooth…more than 10 beyond Steve…I have been close to the grim reaper more than a few times….Even had a near death experience once…..I have had cancer too….thought a lot about death after losing two best friends and a parent all before I was 12….We fear Death because it seems the end to us…but in reality it is only the end of our Ego…Energy according to Eienstien’s theories…never disappears it only changes forms…so no worries there and if you are fortunate to grow old we slowly let go more and more –the Ego slowly diminishes with age…it is the way of Nature. So by the age of 90 we don’t mind so much….pain however is a different avenue to Death. That hopefully can be avoided, but maybe not. Being in an ER at 90 makes no sense if you are in a Coma…and it looks like you are going out soon. Senseless. Yoga was developed ( I was told by a Yogi in India) to extend life in a healthy way long enough to achieve a degree of Peace or Enlightenment …Age gives one perspective and wisdom from that experience– if we can stay honest and open. So there you go…put that in your pipe and smoke it…

  6. Rod

    Problem with your scenario re care at 92 vice 22 is that you’re on the death pool track. Easy to decide for others when they’ve lived long enough, but when they’re deciding for you it’s going to be a different matter. Welcome to obamacare/socialized medicine.

  7. Christine Schryver

    Living Will if you don’t want to die @ home w/o an IV pumping drugs into your veins.

  8. Dan

    I watched my 45yr old sister take her last breath. She fought cancer for over 2 years. It started out in her breast so she had them both removed. A year later it was back up around her collar bone. She went through chemo and radiation. A year after that it was in her brain. After her first round of radiation she had so many ulcers in her mouth and throat from the treatment that they were gagging her. At that point she stopped treatment and said she was done. Shortly after she began literally wasting away. Cancer is an ugly death. I don’t do well with a bad headache or cold much less something as awful as what cancer patients go through. I hope I am never in that situation but I really believe that I would likely take my own life before letting a disease such as cancer have its way with me.

  9. krakatoa

    Oh boy, you humans again. Always thinking you’re in charge of nature. Would you like a Perrier to go with your death too?

  10. steven

    a deceased uncle of mine had a tat on his arm that read, “born to die.” when I was a child, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. being 49 now, it makes more sense daily.

  11. Bill K

    Guy I used to race against pulled out of a race, midway, went back to his car and died, right there.
    That’s how to do it.

  12. Rod Lake

    Can’t imagine Steve ever dying. He’s like a zombie–you can knock him down but you can’t kill him.

  13. Jim

    It might just be that the problem with your scenario Rod is that in many cases, it is the family members that decide to keep their loved ones around longer than they might like. Having gone through this with a mother who was going to die in 6 to 8 months because of lung complications, one of my sisters and I listened carefully to her when she brought her three children together and reminded all of us that “quantity of life is nothing if you don’t have quality.” She was at peace with herself. Our other sister fought tooth and nail to deny her the opportunity to leave us all on her own terms. No “death pool track,” (or did you really mean to say “death panel”), and no 92 vs 22, just a person who was at peace with herself and what she had done in her 82 years.

    By the way Steve, as you grow older (I have about 10 years on you) you will deal with these thoughts more often. Great post as it has helped all who have responded to deal/communicate about this issue.

  14. David

    I had to make the decision to stop life support for my Mother as she lay dying from cancer at 78. I would give all I have to have another day with her alive and well. A very hard decision for people to make. Go ahead and unplug her. very hard to judge people’s decisions until you’ve been there. My next road ID will say ” I’d rather die on my bike than anywhere else.” Not in a hospital or in a car. My family all know this.

    The only other part of this conversation is that it should make us all think of a creator,

  15. devin

    One reason people choose not to die at home is to spare their surviving spouse or kids the death disclosure that goes with the house. In California for example, the seller is required to disclose if any death, for any reason, has occurred in the home in the past 3 years. Its labeled a material fact and must be disclosed. Hard to believe, but its a deal killer for many buyers.

  16. krakatoa

    Same situation for me as well. With the added stress of the peanut gallery chiming in (IE family) and judging.

  17. James

    Spot on post. Dealing with my own grandma and have the same thoughts on my mind. She’ll be living in her own until the end and hopefully will go peacefully. I think the reason for the prolonged death is 1) a long life is seen as a mark of fortune and privilege in N. America 2) families may live apart, people may want to see the rest of their family before the end

  18. James

    Guy died in my parent’s house, used to scare me, until I realized how silly that is!

  19. olmowebb

    So well said Steve, very thoughtful. I’m sure I’m in the minority, but I think there is far more to fear in life than in death. I mainly fear how painful the moments before death might be, but that’s me being a little neurotic 😉

  20. Max

    99% of people don’t live with dignity or ever even live at all. Even with vast amounts of freedom, they remain chained to their own fears and limitations, going through the same routines and playing the same roles for their entire lives. Why should their deaths be any different?


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