and in-laws are dead or dying:
When they sentenced to death the guy responsible for the Oklahoma
city bombing, it seemed to me too good for him. Why, I thought, should
he be gotten out of his misery so easily. And thus I came to doubt
the death penalty. If I wouldn't have killed him, why kill any
criminal. Just bury them alive (figuratively) in an institution. Any
time they show any interest in anything, take it away from them.
- My mom is 92 and is doing great. She did, however, stop
driving at the beginning of this year (2007). She will inevitably die,
but it will be a long time yet. She lives in an apartment in a building
catering to those still able to get to the central dining room. She
cooks breakfast in her apartment and visits with friends in neighboring
- My mother-in-law is weak and needs a wheel chair. Her
residence is a shared room in a nursing home. Residents push a button
to summon a nurse. It sounds an intermitent buzzer until it is
answered. Due to personnnel shortage, the buzzer seldom stops. My wife
and her siblings visit often, but some
residents have few visitors. Television is the most common pastime;
the volume is set on each to compensate for hearing loss, competition
other TVs, and that buzzer.
- My father-in-law shared an apartment with his wife until
shortly before his death. Then he moved to the same nursing wing his
wife now occupies. In his last month we visited and had a fine talk.
Then he just died.
It was too bad, but he lived a good life.
- My father contracted Alzheimer's, as did his mother and
sister, and probably some of his children. He needed constant
my mother for five years and then went into a nursing wing. They pumped
him full of haldol, which wiped him both mentally and physically. Once
I carried in a box with a company name in big
letters. He was so delighted when able to read one of the words.
(Apparently he couldn't see smaller letters without his glasses, which
were not put on him.) After a few years, he forgot how to
eat. Since he was under a DNR order (Do Not Resuscitate), he was not
fed and starved to death.
- Two of my grandparents died of cancer. Painful for a couple
of months. My mother's father just got old, and died two
weeks after a cheerful visit at Christmas. In the last years of his
life, each time I saw him I got anecdotes from an earlier period in
On the other hand, for many in "end-of-life" situations, death might be
welcome. Perhaps, I wonder, our society has this whole death thing
backwards. At some point--a point decided not by law, not by a doctor,
but by the living individual--death
is a boon to be awarded and not a
punishment to be feared. (Criminals don't seem to fear the death
penalty anyway. Crime rates do not differ between states with and
without the death penalty.)