Sep 17

Part 2: Musings on Death With Dignity

The Best Laid Plans…

Two little boys were placed in rooms filled respectively with brand new toys or horse manure and a shovel. After a while, the researchers opened the door to find the little boy in the room with the new toys crying, the toys untouched. Asked why he was crying, the little boy said, “These toys are just going to get broken.”

When the researchers opened the other door, they found that little boy whistling and digging happily with the shovel. Asked why he was so happy, the little boy responded, “With all this horse manure, there just has to be a pony in here somewhere.”

A review of the comments from friends that accompanied the posting Musing on Death with Dignity (below), it’s clear that they are the optimists in the parable of the two little boys.

More than that, it became clear that my loving wife, Ewa, is one of those optimists. She was upset at reading my musings post because she sees a different picture than I do. The result was a thorough discussion in which I pointed out my perspective and she explained hers. Along with the heat came a great deal of light that managed to illuminate the differences we each perceive.

I had planned to write a different piece, but along came a comment I hadn’t expected. The comment that moved me most was posted by my dear friend, Dave Meyers, a guy who has more talent and creativity in his little finger than I have in my entire body. He’s the guy who taught me hang gliding and enticed me into flying sailplanes, whose ceramic endeavors are pure delight, who is sought by NASA when they need a realistic model of one of their rockets, who has a razor-sharp mind and a sense-of-humor like a stand-up comedian. Beyond that, he is an avid hiker and the squeeze of the love-of-his-life, Marilyn. In short, he’s just an average guy. (Yeah, right.) His comment puts my posting in perspective, so I will let him speak for me in this posting. I do this because he expresses with genuine emotion what I said filtered through my intellect. And he ends on a positive note.

But before I get to Dave, I must report that, like Algernon, I am to be a laboratory rat for two intensive weeks to improve my ability to swallow. The training will start on October 1. Stay tuned.

Here’s David…

”Oh Don, the things we’ve done and the things we’ve seen.

My long friendship with you has been so valuable to me. I believe that I could count on one hand my true, long-term friends. But none would stack-up against you. None can compare to the friendship that I have enjoyed with you and Ewa for all these years. 
Memories from our adventures in the 70’s and 80’s as strapping immortals are among my fondest. So, how strange it is now to find myself half a world away with thoughts parallel to yours running through my head. And, how strange that you and I have had a medical event so similar. You with an intervention to the brain stem that didn’t end the way you had hoped and me with a strange stroke affecting the same region.
You, the more severely disabled, me with the ability to walk, talk, eat and socialize, yes, but left with the entire right side of my body numb, tingly and weakened, as a leg or arm might feel when it “falls asleep.”
This condition added to my already compromised upper limbs due to a history of cervical issues has worn me out over the past year. It has robbed me of my enthusiasm, my stamina, my joy, and…sadly…my will to live much longer with these terrible feelings.

So, as I read the thoughts in your elegant piece, I nod in agreement over each point that supports your overall view. But I cry, even as I type this, to think of my dear friend departing this earth. I cry for myself and my similar thoughts of just simply…stepping out. I keep waiting for recovery around the corner, as I know that you do. But I also know the frustration that builds in us as time goes by and no recovery, or very little.

So, what do we do my friend, what do we do? Do we check out and leave those who support us and love us and pray for our recoveries? Do we leave children, wives and partners, in anguish, to announce to the world that we gave up and committed suicide? 
Because that’s how it looks to others…. really…people who commit suicide have found a permanent solution to a possibly temporary problem…. right? Isn’t that how it’s seen by most people? 
Well, the problem is that they don’t feel what we feel…. they can’t feel our altered sense of place in everyday life, the death of our contentment, the difficulty that every gesture and act, once performed with ease, now presents to us…and they don’t understand our simple desire for peace.

What about the likes of Stephen Hawking, confined to a chair, not able to do much of anything for himself? What about vets who have lost limbs and suffered unspeakable damage to body and mind…they go on…don’t they? Maybe. 
Is that enough for us to rally and decide that we have some fight left in us? I don’t know.

Every person can find hidden strength, hidden ability, hidden reserve. But every person knows when enough is enough, and I do believe that every person should have the right to decide…. Do I stay or do I depart? 
I believe that we each have that right. How that matches up with our duty to and consideration for our loved ones… I don’t know.

What about my beautiful partner, Marilyn, whom I love as I’ve never loved before, who stands by me, supports me, roots for me, and helps me focus? All the while I worry that she will tire of the events of this past year and disappear from my life. 
What about my beloved Sister, who provides a shoulder and advice that mean so much to me? What about my Sons with lives of their own far away whom I have basically sheltered from my real pain.
 What about my Brothers, my few but close friends? What do I owe them?

One part of me says, “They’ll understand, they love me and they’ll be happy that I am not suffering any longer”. Really? Will they? Do I need them to forgive me? Is that more important than my peace? I don’t know.

Dear Friend, although I see our situations as being similar, I don’t know what you feel. I know that you hurt, but to what extent your daily misery strips away your will to go on, I don’t know.

I will cry, but I will understand.

Maybe for now, we can agree to hang on for just a while longer. What do you say?”



With those words as a closing, I’ll add… Yes, we can hang on. I plan to. I hope you do, too.

As Spock would say: ”Live long and prosper.”


Skip to comment form

  1. “Maybe for now, we can agree to hang on for just a while longer, What do you say?” “Yes, we can hang on. I plan to. I hope you do, too”. Brilliant, yes!! We’re all in this together, Don. xx

    • Dave Meyers on September 18, 2013 at 04:49

    Go Algernon!

    Given my family history vs. yours, it’s a simple fact that you would have out-lived me anyway. So, with that in mind, let’s each take advantage of the options that open up before us; your new therapy and my new advocate…a wheelchair bound doctor who, today, took charge of my efforts to heal.

    Hope is everything. It throws light into the darkest room.
    So we hang on then, and we hope.

    You are in my thoughts.

    • Art Ulene on September 19, 2013 at 21:57

    Words fail me (and, as you know Don, that doesn’t happen often)…. but I do want you both (Don and Dave) to know that you have touched me deeply…. inspired me to appreciate my current state of affairs even more…. and reminded me that none of us have any guarantee on tomorrow.

      • Don Bay on September 20, 2013 at 16:58

      Conditions change, but the philosophy hasn’t changed. Enjoy every moment. Life is too short to hang back. Thanks for the kind words.

    • Mary Ann Conley on September 19, 2013 at 23:11

    I too have been deeply touched by the dialog between Don and Dave. I plan to share it with some of my clients who also feel great despair.

Comments have been disabled.