I just read a story about a man’s determination to be free and to realize a dream. It was about his struggle to remain free in aging, to make his own choices, when others sought to place him in an “assisted living home”…ostensibly to protect him from himself in his final days. We saw the world through the man’s mind.
All our lives we struggle with personal aspects of freedom, trying to find our way through the quagmire of reality toward some vision of freedom…reminds me of Jonathan Franzen’s novel, Freedom. You’d think that as we get older and wiser, we’d reach our answer…and maybe we do in death. Or, as Franzen illustrated in his novel, perhaps freedom is not all we think it will be. There may be unintended consequences.
It seems as we grow older, in the final third of our lives, freedom is as much a dream as in adolescence, those precious years when a boy or a girl struggles through innocence to enjoy the imagined fruits of adulthood. There is always someone to be beholding to…some impediment to reckon with. Life becomes bigger than ourselves, never as simple as it seems. It’s what it is.
My doctor asked me an interesting question the other day, after my annual physical exam. He finished going through my lab work, reviewed all the tests warranted for my age, and gave me a conclusion. He told me the good news was I was almost at no risk for any of the major causes of premature death. My veins were clear, colon was healthy, good blood pressure, no heart disease, no cancer, clear lungs, etc. All I needed to do was lose some weight and get more daily exercise…very reasonable. Then he said. “So, assuming you will live to be 85 or so, you face an enviable question. How would you like to die?”
It was striking, not what you’d expect your doctor to say after a successful physical exam. It was provocative, as I think he intended. The question begs other questions, how will you lead the rest of your life…what will you do with it? I’m still thinking of a dazzling array of interesting answers. There are spiritual and personal choice concerns. Regardless of my imagination, the question of my own freedom keeps nudging up in importance…along with the unintended consequences. It’s good to have choices.
Wouldn’t it be best if when we knew the time was right, we could just reach up and turn off the light?
Bob Sachs said:
Remember when we just talked about sex and sports?
More to your point, today we were discussing a friend who died last week. She had been suffering with Alzheimer’s for a couple of years. Her mother had the same malady and our friend had watched her mother linger for eleven years. She did not want that for herself. So as her decline steepened, she stopped eating. She had all the medical directives in order and she went downhill fast. Faced with this debilitating disease, our friend somehow summoned the courage to forego all the heroic measures that could have kept her breathing, etc. She will be missed, but we can be comforted in knowing that she answered the question of how she would like to die.
Wilson Wyatt Jr. said:
Yes, I can remember those days! While I hesitated to post these thoughts about aging, especially at year-end, they were current in my mind and raised all kinds of thoughts. Thank you for sharing your recent story.
Jeanne Stone said:
Very provocative question! As a nurse practitioner, and also a person definitely in the last third of my life I have seen many ways I would not choose to die, or ways I would not like to be as I approached death. Think it is very important to live each day to the very fullest, and live in a manner that you will not have regrets. Then, hopefully , when your time comes to die, you will “feel ready” and unafraid. A rather nebulous answer to a very complex issue. Very thought provoking post Wilson
Wilson Wyatt Jr. said:
I agree with your positive perspective!
John P Matthew said:
Wilson excellent pictures. LIke them. John