Updated: Jul 9
By Susan Kastner
"When I die, I want to die like my grandfather who died peacefully in his sleep. Not screaming, like all the passengers in his car." ~ Will Rogers
Death wishes: How to decide which are the right ones for you?
We remember being struck by the news, a little while back, that a sound but stunningly selfless 75-year-old female was heading for Switzerland to have herself offed, just so that she, but more importantly, her loved ones, need never be afflicted with the burden of her getting old(er).
Greater love, you might say, hath no mom: Getting out well ahead of time rather than ever ever being a weight upon any of them-there who in their day have been quite a weight on oneself. Heaven forefend.
Inspiring. But yet, so confusing.
Such a proliferation of plan-now-die-later pointers, in the decades since the bestseller list first featured Final Exit, that invaluable tome about putting yourself out of the picture when you cease to be fun to be around.
Today, then – particularly in the face of the Covid 19 triage, with its drive to entrench, once and for all, the principle of elder disposability; nay, redundancy; nay, sheer unseemly resource-hogging...not to mention that Moe Znaimer's Zoomer has pegged age 45 as the downturning point – how to choose what’s right for you, amongst the churning tourbillon of tremes for the big unplugging? To book now with your local Hemlock Society or favourite death doulah, get your Advance Directive filled in and lawyered; and – most important – don’t go squandering your cash: What are your kids supposed to live on afterwards?
Of course you want Death With Dignity. Damned straight. After all, who was offering Life With Dignity? A directive for guaranteed wedded ecstasy, job security, peer adulation, delightful kids, no bad hair days?
No: You've never dressed quite right; people failed to lapse into awestruck silence when you expounded on your favourite subjects; no one envied your hair, you had to take early retirement, and your children and grandchildren fall about snorting whenever you try to tell them again about the time you met the Beatles.
So, you were figuring, your death, at least, would get great reviews. "In life she was a walking joke, but my stars, didn't she go out like a queen!"
Buoyed by the sheer simplicity and common sense of it, we were just sitting down to tick off the boxes on one of those Advance Directives, when the news of that 75-year-old mom froze our pen.
Was this the breaching of a whole new frontier? Not just considerately making provisions for slipping unproblematically away later, but rather, going fusslessly right now, just in case?
Easing things for your near and dear, who will have the misfortune to continue to be alive – poor benighted bastards – while lucky you are peacefully dead, gone, problem free – no care, now, for climate change, funeral costs, the price of Botox, A.D.D. meds and mortgages? Oh no; you’re fine, you’re dead ... as usual it’s all about self-absorbed you, you, you.
Surely the least you can do is get the hell out now, minimize the bother, and leave us everything? murmur one’s loved ones, along with the insurance, banking, legal and funeral industries, gathering and hovering with things they would like you to sign over.
Well, sir; in this new hurry-up sign-now-die-now climate, we found ourselves setting aside that new Advance Directive, and thinking about dusting off our old one. A kind of Advance Invective.
Instead of a Living Will, a Living Won't.
Hell, no, we Won’t go! Don’t pull that plug, hold that lethal dose, give us the works and don’t spare the horses.
But then, we thought, perhaps that was being not only unreasonably selfish, and an unfair drain on today's public purse, but also a tad unrealistic. After all, there are some states in which you would really, really rather be dead.
So we are appending a list of signs that extreme salvation measures are contra-indicated.
Do Not Resuscitate, should we be heard speaking warmly of:
Woody Allen’s last dozen movies
Anyone named or related to a Trump, Ford, or Lord Crisscrossharbour.
Our first 2.5 ex-husbands
Banks, insurance companies, the legal and financial industries
Bacon maple anything
For that matter:
Book the dementia ward, should we be detected evincing the slightest interest in:
Dressing like Iris Apfel
Anyone named or remotely connected to anyone named Kardashian
Whether large bums on white women are cultural appropriation
Tindr, Grindr, Instagram
Apart from any of that, precious ones: Look to my Living Won't. Stanch the drool, prop up the corpus, stockpile the morphine, cancel the old folks' home, and let us mambo creakily to the end.
And hope your own inheritors do as much for you.