This comes to my mind today because of the incredible story in the New York Times about Canada’s euthanasia law, but more specifically John Shields’ assisted suicide under the law. You can both read and listen to that here.
Just as I know I cannot truly know how it feels when the person I love most in this world takes her last breath in my arms, unless it happens; I also understand that it is impossible to know now how I will confront my own mortality. Indeed, as I write this, I am no longer sure that I want the person I love most in the world to be there with me as I take my last breath because of how hard it might be for her. Is the vision of the two of us waltzing in an idealized inter-world space with Unchained Melody playing in our ears as I disappear not in fact a dream for my sake and not hers?
In the play, The Actual Dance, I recount my experience with my mother in her hospital room as she dies. I talk about experiencing her life-force exit her at her last breath and seeing it “spin out of the room.” It is that instant that has led me to believe that “life exists in each of us in a tangible form. The essence of who we are beyond the physical body.”
What I didn’t include the script is that for more than a decade after that experience my medical directive did NOT contain the provision to “withhold extraordinary measures” for me. And even though today as I write this blog my directive does say not to take “extraordinary measures”, I continue to have doubts about that decision.
As I listened to the audio of John Shields saying good-bye to his family and friends standing around him right before the lethal injections, I wondered again about my decisions and what I want to do. Listening to him talk about his wonder and awe at nature and the world made me want to not hear his relief from what seems to be unimaginable pain he was suffering as the result of an incurable disease.
So, just when is it going to be “my turn to Dance?” I still carry that seed of doubt that I should do anything that shortens my time in this life, even for a nanosecond.
For me there is a gap - a chasm - between death notwithstanding every human effort possible to extend life for as long as possible or allowing “nature to take its course.” Or yet an even further, deeper chasm to myself picking the time and place and method of my last breath.
When it is my turn to Dance, I want a “wonderful, elegant, beautiful” and intimate instant. First is the kiss that allows me to inhale Susan’s breath with my last one. Second is my essence exiting as a wisp from this universe into another filled with her love intertwined with mine.