Eleven years ago an idiot doctor correctly diagnosed me with Lyme disease but incorrectly treated it. As a result, the spirochetes ate a piece of my heart, and I now require a battery and a microchip to help it keep pace. Without this device I am conscious, but not much good beyond that, as weak as a kitten. Thank Ifni for modern medical technologies!
I have also undergone a number of medical procedures in the last several years including an appendectomy, hernia repair, and pacemaker replacement, and one of the newer anesthetics that has been used functions rather like a light switch; you’re conscious, then you’re not, then you are once again, with no sensation of transition and never noticing that you vanished for the last hour.
The recent deaths of several people I've known and my advancing age got me to thinking about mortality. I don’t believe in a hereafter, and the contemplation of Death used to give me the willies. However, these medication experiences have alleviated that anxiety. If the “on” switch is never flipped after having been turned “off,” well, oblivion is not half bad. Don’t Fear the Reaper.
Ah, but the process of dying is a whole different issue. Tubes, wires, indignities, fear and pain; these are not so pleasant to contemplate. Falling asleep in an easy chair after a nice glass of wine and just never waking up would be fine. But we are not given a choice, are we? In fact, even in civilized circumstances, we are not allowed a choice. There are few places where voluntary euthanasia is permitted. There is supposedly something noble about terminal suffering.
Suppose I am in my end game and circling the drain; will my pacemaker delay my departure and prolong the agony? Do I get to point to that device in my chest and say “Turn it off, Doc!” if that will hasten my death? Do I need to document this with Advance Directives? I suppose I’d best do so and not leave it to chance, but it seems ludicrous that I might need to do this. If it is my life, why can’t it be my death as well?
I suspect that as do many things, it is something that discomforts others and is given a fig-leaf of cover by religious sensibilities. No, it’s not really my life, it belongs to a Deity. Never mind that I consider that superstition. One must jump through hoops to opt out of the traditional systems and beliefs.
One only need google Karen Ann Quinlan and Terry Schiavo to recognize that the real thing to fear is other people's beliefs. Be prepared, because there will always be someone who thinks that they are deputized to act in what they decide is your best interest. Be on guard, and lay your plans somewhat beyond a simple retirement. You may be reluctant now, but you may be powerless then.