My sister, Emily, died a week ago. Her funeral was my fourth in as many months. So, its not surprising that Ive been thinking a lot about death lately. But thats not terribly unusual. Most of us in the aged bracket (over seventy-five) think about death. We wonder how much longer well be here. We wonder if well go quickly and easily, or slowly and painfully.
Emilys death was slow and painful. She was caught in the catch-22 hell of todays medical assistance in dying law. She was only one example of the many people whose request for assisted suicide, after being approved while they were judged to be mentally competent, was denied because of a deterioration in their thought processes caused, mostly, by the drugs they needed to block their pain.
Critics of the law, including a number of legal scholars, argued that some of the restrictions in Bill C-14 would inevitably be challenged in court. They were right, and those restrictions will be lifted. Its only a matter of time.
Ive never been able to understand how a decision made when a person is of sound mind can be deemed invalid should that person suddenly be declared not of sound mind. Why our Parliament threw that particular spanner in the works, (to use an expression Emily often used) is something I think every one of them should have to answer for. A lot of people have suffered, needlessly, because of their poor decisions.
Sadly, Emily put things off for a little too long. By the time she decided that shed had enough, her mind wasnt up to par. She lasted another two bedridden weeks, floating in and out of painful consciousness, and pain-free oblivion.
That is not going to happen to me.
One of the things I thought about, when I first realized that I might have to take matters into my own hands, was the ancient (to my eighteen-year-old eyes) professor who taught my Journalism 101 class. It was an interesting elective that required minimal effort and suited my schedule that year. The too-skinny man had thick, receding, salt and pepper hair, a loud, croaky voice, and (to my seventy-eight-year-old eyes) would have been many years away from retirement.
All I really remember from that course (I got a B.) is The Five Ws and one H rule. Its the list of questions needing answers when information gathering or problem solving. I needed to know about, and be prepared for, any and all eventualities. I needed to know how to prevent unnecessary suffering, but at the same time not miss out on any joy.
The questions are who, what, where, when, why, and how.
So, it looks like Im going to be spending a lot more time in front of my laptop. Im going to write down every thought that comes to my mind on every one of those questions. Even if they dont seem relevant. Even if they dont even seem important.
Writing things down makes you think more slowly, and more deeply. You can end up realizing that something you didnt think was important was actually crucial, when you see it in writing. It becomes more than just an idea. Ideas can be chased around by new, and not necessarily better, ideas, and driven right out of one of the windows in your brain; windows that seem to magically appear along with wrinkles and stiff joints. But if youve written them down, they