Death and death positivity have always been a big part of my life. From a young age I wanted to be a mortician. I had little understanding of the death industry, or what really happened behind the scenes, but I knew I wanted to be in it. As I got older I did more research and the interest always held, but my idea of how I wanted to contribute to the industry changed and adapted as my values and interests did. Thanks to this keen interest and the amount of respect I have for the inevitability of death, I’ve managed to cope well with the passing of the people in my life and accept their deaths as a natural, non scary thing. I’ve also been able to discuss death positivity with the people around me and have the awkward, sometimes scary conversation with people who fear death and have been able to educate them.
My family has always been quite open and honest about what we truly want our deaths to look like if we’re given the option, and how we want our bodies dealt with after we die. This was a vital conversation back in 2012 when my father was dying. We knew he didn’t want to be a vegetable. We knew he wanted the pain eased as much as possible (which, honestly, is hard to do with cancer), and we knew he didn’t want to die in a hospital. We managed to fulfill almost all of those living death-wishes. PJ, my incredible father, blissfully drugged to the legal max, was only vegetated the last 2 days before he finally died in our family home, surrounded by the furniture he had built and photos of the family that still love him. (I am still to this day adamant he waited for my mother to leave his side for a split second so he could die alone – independent to his last breath). Despite cancer being the thing that killed him, he had a good death.
To me, the definition of a “good death” is a death that fulfills my living wishes, eases the burden of the ones left behind, and has structure; a will and testament, a death plan, a funeral plan, and prehaps money aside for the after care. We can’t predict how we are going to die, but we can absolutely be prepared so the burden of our departure is eased for those who have to somehow muddle through the paperwork while they grieve. Although we have no way of knowing the precise nature of our demise, we can certainly be comfortable with its inevitability and we can make our wishes known to those who are going to need the information. Humans are sentimental creatures after all…
In facing our mortality, humans tend to possess the idea they want to be kept alive as long as possible. They want to be revived, they want the ventilator. They want the hardcore potentially life saving invasive surgery. One thing people don’t consider though is the quality of life afforded to people who go through those options. If you were to ask a doctor in a hospital “would you want CPR?” a resounding 99% would say no. The chance of living a long life with decent quality after “life saving” CPR is not great. You may live, but there’s a solid chance you’ll be brain-damaged, even vegetated. Those who carry on for a few extra years still begin to show signs of diminished physiological and social abilities. Ventilators and surgery have just as (if not more) terrifying outcomes.
Each time someone in my life dies my own death and after-care preferences are confirmed. If I get the chance to choose my death, I have made my preference known to my friends and family. I do not want to be kept or even put on a ventilator. You are chemically paralyzed by a doctor who KNOWS you are conscious, awake, and unable to do anything. You are trapped in your body, but paralyzed to stop your body fighting the unnatural breathing pattern the ventilator creates for you. I do not want to be resuscitated. I have no interest in a shattered rib cage, potentially punctured lungs and the very high probability of brain damage. I do not want highly invasive surgery where the quality of life is at all diminished. Hook me up to a happy feel good machine and let me slip in to the drug haze in my final moments. Let me die as painlessly as possible – even if it means cutting my “life” short. Once I’m dead, or brain dead but have a beating heart – start slicing. I’m a registered organ donor, and I want that honoured.
For me personally, that is the kinder option. For myself and for those around me. Many people disagree with me or are horrified by my choice. The few discussions I’ve had with people outside my circle turned in to a big game of “Yeah, but what if…”. I believe that once you make death your friend, not a thing to be scared of and terrorised by, the “What If” disappears. You start thinking objectively and you start thinking about the best options for everybody. More options open up to you and you can prepare for a good death. It is absolutely an uncomfortable thing to think about – you wouldn’t be human in the current century if you weren’t initially a little irked by death. But it is the most natural thing that can happen to you. It can be a celebration in itsef. It can be utilised and planned to a certain degree.
So think carefully – How do you want to die?
I’ve spent years deciding on my death and on what I want to happen to my body and bits once I’m gone. It is not an easy conversation to have with anyone, yourself included. Not a first. There is a lot to think about, but it is a conversation that needs to take place. It needs to happen with yourself. It needs to happen with your partner, your parents, your siblings… Your friends may be open to that discussion too. Heck, they may even have a new outlook or idea on what to do once you’ve died! The more you talk about death and it’s inevitability, the easier it becomes. The fear is removed and you can move past it. It’s always worth doing research in to “life saving” methods. Medicine and technology is always advancing, and in your life time there may be a huge advancement. But quality of life is something that needs to be considered and is rarely a factor in people’s decision-making. Find what makes you comfortable. Find the option you feel is the most kind to yourself and to those who will be left to mourn you.
Until then, stay silly xx