When We’re Done

My dear friend E. emailed that she was carjacked at gunpoint and would phone when she was less shaken. A few days later, we talked.

“The first thing I thought when I saw the gun at my chest was death. Is this the way I’m going to die?”

I’ve thought of E.’s question plenty, changing it a bit, making it my own. Minus the gun to the chest, I’m wondering how I’ll die. I thought about this often after my husband’s death in 2008 and when my parents died.

A few days ago, I picked up the weekly paper, the food issue, in the lobby of my building, took it up to my tiny space, placed it on the countertop. There’s something a little incongruous—all the restaurant pieces, the recipes—just pages from the obituaries. I scanned the recipes but segued to death notices, looking for deceased whose ages were near mine. Someone fought a valiant, two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. Another braved a longer fight, six years. Breast cancer. “She died peacefully, her family at her side.”

“Jesus,” I said aloud, “I don’t want this—a long diminishment lasting years as a malignancy consumes, metastasizes, and invades my brain and bones.” And I especially don’t want my children to be burdened.

One of my best friends, a college roommate, whom I can’t think about without crying, died two years ago of leukemia. I talked with her frequently as she, in her ever-positive way, convinced me she would “beat it.” I see her as she was during college days. It’s hard to imagine a world without her. But my world is without her. Without many loved ones, because I’ve reached THAT age. And I’m wondering who will be next.

Over a year ago, I attended a death with dignity discussion panel. Keynote speaker was Barbara Mancini, representing Compassion and Choices. Read about her here, a harrowing and gut wrenching story, then Google her name for more information. Panel speakers included someone from Not Dead Yet Disability Rights, two ministers, ethics professors, Rep. Pricey Harrison, who’s sponsored the NC Death with Dignity Bill, and a representative from Final Exit Network (death with dignity), which I recently joined.

Back to E., the gun, her question if this would be the way she’d die. I said, “Quick, but messy.” Messy, yes, but anyone who’s had experience with certain cancers knows the disease can be horrifyingly nasty. I’ve written about my mother’s decision to have no more medical screenings after Daddy died, her illness, the choice she made to stop eating, the nine days it took for her to die—that right to die—as we the Sisterhood cared for her.
We should have a pop-up timer in our body, like the plastic device in a turkey or chicken, that announces when to be removed from the oven: done. Not another pacemaker. Not another stint. No more chemo, no more radiation. No more more.

Unfortunately, I don’t live in one of the states that has a death-with-dignity statute. North Carolina does however allow open carry of firearms. Insanity, huh?

Interlude: I began this article a few days before yet another mass murder. Before I endured yet another someone, on the radio, say, and I paraphrase, “There’s no place for this kind of violence in America.” I was driving when I heard this. And thought my ears would bleed—not only because it’s standard political opportunism, the posturing after each killing spree involving a nutter with an arsenal, but also a detachment, the unfuckingacceptable disconnect, from the carnage US foreign policy exacts on those the government pronounces objects—or unhuman.

Returning now to E. and her question: Is this the way I’m going to die? which lead to other questions and thoughts about death, about assisted suicide, and the relief that this option offers when one is DONE—it’s what I want. My children know. We’ve discussed it and continue to discuss it. They honor their mother. There is no greater love than this.

More articles by:

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South