A Good Day To Die
By Tom Eck
“It is a good day for dying,” the old, weathered Apache whispered to his family in some movie whose title and storyline I had long ago forgotten. At the time, the idea of knowing exactly when I would meet the grim reaper was both appalling and appealing. Would I fixate on my end and forget what living was about? What would I do differently with my life, if I somehow was certain of the day and time when I would no longer exist on this planet? But today, when I woke up this morning, I knew that this would be my last day… my best day.
Three months ago, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Stage 4, a certain death sentence, not without final days of unabatable pain, weakness and loss of bodily functions. Fortunately, with the help of powerful pain killers, I had not yet arrived at that place. But I was fast approaching that dreaded destination. I could see it in the eyes of those who love me, trying to disguise the shock of my weight loss, jaundiced skin and the ever-growing weakness subduing my body. I could feel my mind starting to slip into places it had never been before—prolonged confusion, forgetfulness and hallucinations.
I have always been one who tried to take control of my destiny and accepted the consequences of my decisions. Like every human being, my decisions were not always the best for me, although they seemed to be at the time. But I didn’t focus on what I had done wrong—I tried to learn and not repeat my mistakes. Sometimes I succeeded in learning. Many times I did not, especially with the women in my life. But I had few regrets, except perhaps, that I had not smelled enough roses or eaten enough ice cream.
Today, I talked to those who still remain a part of my life. . .not that many, but enough for me. Always quality over quantity. Facetime and the telephone—both wonderful ways to stay in touch. But not as good as hugs. A few of those today as well. They probably knew that something was up, but then wrote it off as a sick old man doing what sick old men do. Today I made everything right—at least in my mind. No more unspoken apologies. No unforgiven grudges. No unacknowledged love.
Long ago, I decided that if I were fortunate enough to have control over my death, I would exercise that option with gratitude and courage. I was not going to put my loved ones through a regimen of attending to a decrepit, dying old man who could not bathe himself or wipe his own butt. I was not about to spend the last days of my life as worse than useless. The last memories of me were not going to be those of a pathetic wisp of my former humanity. I would die with dignity.
So here I am, looking at the five doses of insulin that will put me to sleep and allow me to check out on my own terms. I know it won’t be painful. Even if it were, it will be far preferable to the little time I have left.
This has been my best day. It truly is a good day to die.
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