With the passings of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, death has been on our minds here at Vampirenomad.com this week, as evidenced by Corinne and Nathan’s posts prior to today. I can’t really add anything to what they’ve already expressed so eloquently. I’ve said all I have to say about celebrity passings in previous posts about Harold Ramis, Robin Williams, and the one that was hardest on me, Leonard Nimoy.
Instead I am going to be focusing on the death side of things. This has been on my mind a lot lately not only due to the recent news but also because of what I am currently reading: Machine of Death. This book is a collection of short stories inspired this THIS STRIP from Dinosaur Comics. The stories are set in a world where a device that can tell from a drop of your blood how you are going to die exists. The machine is never wrong, but its predictions can border on very dark humor and irony. If you get PLANE CRASH on the little strip of paper that the machine spits out, you may spend the rest of your life avoiding flying only to be killed when a plane crashes into your house.
The stories range from the amusing to the tragic and deal with many aspects of what human existence would be like in such a world. I find myself asking over and over again if I would want to know. I don’t think that I would, but I also don’t know that I would be able to resist finding out. I can barely keep myself away from TV and movie spoilers. How would I be able to deny myself the ultimate spoiler: the cause of my own death?
If I did find out, I would instantly regret it. While the machine will say how you die, it won’t tell you when. Sure none of us know when we’re going to die as it is, but we also don’t have that promise of HEART ATTACK or CAR CRASH staring us in the face.
I almost think I would rather know the when and not the how. Can you imagine spending the rest of your life knowing that IMPALEMENT or ASPHIXIATION is waiting for you? But if I knew the when, I would hope that I would use that knowledge to live my life to its fullest. Hell, we should all do that anyway, but a definite expiration date would be the kick in the pants that a lot of us need to get out of our regular routines.
All of this has made me think more about how I want to go out in the end. Cancer sucks, but I also don’t relish the thought of wasting away in a nursing home. Members of my family have tended to go quickly, but my ex-wife’s grandfather spent years in a nursing home gradually losing more and more of his ability to do anything that he enjoying. At the end, he would wake up, move to a chair where he watched TV all day, and then go back to bed. He often verbalized his desire to die and his disbelief that he was still alive. His death was a relief to him and to the family that had to watch his decline.
Frankly going through that kind of end scares the hell out of me. Why can’t I go out like my great aunt? She went out to dinner with some friends on a Saturday night, got up Sunday morning, went to her living room to watch some TV, and then she fell asleep and didn’t wake up. As far as deaths go, that’s about as pleasant as it gets.
I know I can’t control external factors that may kill me such as disease or the actions of others, but the fact, should I avoid those things, I have no say in my own death honestly pisses me off. If you listen to the rhetoric, the United States is all about liberty and personal freedom, but in most states we don’t have the liberty to control that most basic element of all, our own existence.
I read the counter arguments about families badgering their elderly relatives into ending their lives as to not be a financial burden, but that seems like a strawman that could be easily addressed with a few safeguards. If I’m facing a long, agonizing battle against an incurable condition that’s going to inevitably kill me, I’d rather just skip ahead to the end, thank you very much.
So…yeah…not the most pleasant topic, but it is one we can’t hide from. Every single person in the history of ever dies. Pretending that it’s not going to happen or just ignoring it really doesn’t help. If you have access to it on your cable system’s On Demand feature, the season finale of Adam Ruins Everything actually does a good job hammering home this fact.
But I will pull myself out of this gloomy subject for now. Come back tomorrow for…
- Alan Decker
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