How to Leave with Dignity

We’ve come to a point in our lives, my boyfriend and I, where we think about leaving, not each other, but leaving this world… as in dying. We can’t help it; we are faced with this thought all the time.

I saw my father’s slow decline by stroke-induced dementia. I watched this proud, macho, intelligent man, who would have said “shoot me first”, slowly become a child-like version of his former self, unaware of where he was, which was a good thing because he was in a nursing home and in diapers. Luckily, he forgot his wish of being shot first, never asked any of us to oblige, and passed peacefully. My boyfriend flew back and forth to Ohio repeatedly for several years helping two parents with Parkinson’s disease as they struggled to walk, talk, sit, eat, and eventually even breathe. They, too, are gone. And now, I am helping my 90-year-old mom adjust to living in an apartment in a senior community where there is a lot of assistance to make her life easy. It is easy, yes, but it is still not her home. Many of our generation share similar experiences; many of us also say “shoot me first”.

The first discussion I had about this with my boyfriend began when I read an article about an English conductor and his dying wife going to Switzerland for end-of-life injections. Assisted suicide is what they call it. We talked about it, joked about it. We decided that, when the time came, if either of us could remember that was what we wanted to do, we’d go to Switzerland together…or do something like it. We made a pact and then shelved it.

But lately, it’s come up again, mostly when friends or acquaintances bring up this end-of-life dilemma. We’ve become more serious about it now and it’s getting worrisome. It seems we are moving toward different scenarios for our final, idealized, hand-in-hand departure. Fear not, neither of us has mentioned guns! He’s a car guy. He wants us to get in a fast sports car and drive wildly, rapidly off a cliff. He would be behind the wheel, of course. Me, I’m a sensual romantic. I would prefer to take some pill or potion and curl up in bed together with soft music and lights, scented candles burning, hug, kiss, make love, talk about our lives, nod off peacefully.

What is funny is how these visions reflect our taste in movies and books. He would like to star in Die Hard or The Bourne Identity. I see myself in a tragic love story like Amour or On the Beach. Maybe we can compromise, do the cuddle/talk/make love part first, then get into the hot sports car and head for the cliff. That is…if either of us remembers.

One thought on “How to Leave with Dignity

  1. Katherine broadway? springs? March 25, 2014 / 3:55 pm

    My dear friend, you make me cry. Sitting on the terrace of my hotel on Lake Atitlin in Guatemala, looking at the beauty of the earth and thinking how true. I hope whatever happens next is as beautiful as this moment. XOXO

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