Today I made a couple of life decisions.
The first was deciding on my funeral arrangements.
The second; deciding on how, and when, I want to leave this life.
I won't spoil the surprise, but I figure I have about 20 good years left in me. If I make it long enough to see my children reach adulthood, and maybe guide them through the first few years of having children themselves, I've pretty much maximized my usefulness to this life. Why do I want to face the rapid decline of old age? Why do I want to force my loved ones to watch me decline into a shell of the person I once was to them? Why would I be so selfish to hang on to a life that offers them nothing but serving me when I can no longer properly serve myself? Why shouldn't they be able to mourn my passing quickly, and be happy in knowing I left this life on my terms?
For centuries human societies have revered their elderly and the wisdom they could bring to the tribe, the village, the society - but they also knew when enough was enough. When the elderly could no longer provide a use to the society, they were a burden that threatened the survival of the next generations by thinning resources. They were a dangerous liability, and those more primitive societies knew when to cut off the dying limbs of their family tree, and did so. They mourned, but knew that their elderly were exiting a life in which they gave all that they could, and they would die with dignity.
Our society? We allow our elderly to linger in hospital beds, fed by tubes, broken and suffering, hanging on to the unraveled and frayed threads of their life. We pump them full of medicines, hook them up to machines that will breathe for them, while we sit by their side and watch them slowly fade into death. Then we drain the blood from their bodies, fill them full of chemicals and paint their faces so they look somewhat alive for a few more days so we can watch over them in death as well. In the end, their bodies are locked into a metal box and we store them away in the ground, or in a mausoleum where whatever life giving resources that might still be in them can be forever locked away, unable to provide back to the Earth and future life.
Death has been happening on this planet for over 4 billion years. It is a cycle: new life is created, it feeds off of the life around it, it dies, it goes back into the Earth where new life will feed off of it. This is the cycle for plants, bugs, fish, bears... everything except people.
Am I the only one that finds how we deal with life and death more than somewhat ridiculous?
Don't get me wrong; death saddens me. I mourn for my loved ones when they pass, and I grieve with the loved ones still in my life. But once someone is gone, they're gone. I won't profess to say I know for sure what happens to their energy or their spirit, but I sure as hell know the physical biology that exists in the food chain, and being dead in a metal box, and full of chemicals, removes essential materials from the food chain.
There is a natural cycle that we're too arrogant to see. To hung up in our own selfishness and hopes for something better after we die.
The only thing in life you must do is die. Everything else is a choice.
I want my death to be my choice, too. And I'll be damned if a doctor, a lawyer, an insurance company or a politician is going to have anything to say about my choice. My family can grieve, but I would rather they put their energies into rejoicing and celebrating the life I lived. What I provided them when I could. How I loved, how I cared for people, how I worked, how I helped and how, hopefully, I've left the world a better place than when I came into it.
Celebrate life - even the ugly death part of it. Without death, life cannot continue.
Granted, no one WANTS to die. The instinctual knowledge of what death is is hard-wired into every living thing. Plants reach for the sun, animals hunt and their prey struggles against the hunt for survival. Tap an ant and it will run like mad to get away from you - even at that level, life knows it doesn't WANT to die.
But if an ant is old and ill, the other ants will eat it.
As a species, we're arrogant enough to think other species don't understand death as a concept; that they don't mourn their losses. They do. Other species absolutely do.
But they also know there isn't anything they can do about the cycle of life, that everything dies, and sometimes it's best to just move on.