I recently read this heart-wrenching story in the Chicago Tribune about this woman who threw a ‘suicide party’ for her and her friends before relinquishing by taking a prescribed pill from her physician.
Betty Davis was an artist from Ojai, Southern California, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2013. Earlier this year, California governor Jerry Brown implemented a very controversial measures allowing physician-assisted suicide throughout his state. Emotionally-charged debates have ensued since the passing of that measure. Obviously, the decision undertaken by Betty Davis has exasperated that controversy.
I’m not writing this post to state whether I support or oppose Davis’ final decision. I don’t know her. I’ve never even met her. Therefore, I don’t feel the need to comment on her personal affairs.
Death is a topic which our modern culture has frightenedly strayed from discussing. In fact, at the turn of the last century, the parlour, where the corpse of a family member was displayed before proceeding to the burial site, was revamped into the modern ‘living room’ (subtle, right?).
Our post-Victorian urban society is not at fault. We have been petrified by the very mention of death since the advent of our species. We’ve comforted our fears through fanciful tales of the ‘afterlife’. After all, despite all its destructive acts against humanity, why do you think religion continues to be an potent facet of our culture?
Nonexistence is unfathonable for the human mind to comprehend. We can’t even began to imagine not being alive. Therefore, we’re stricken with chills to our bones at the very thought of our own deaths. We exist. We like existing. We want to exist forever. And yet death lurks as we grew older and greyer.
Regardless of your opinion on Betty Davis’ final decision, her perspective on her situation is not only refreshing, but quite inspirational. Diagnosed with a terminal illness, she decided to undergo physician-assisted suicide with a smile. She embraced her inevitable end by inviting her family and friends to celebrate! She implemented a strict ‘no-crying’ rule at her party, as she laughed and reminisced with her loved ones. For her, her death day was not a time of sadness and heartache but an opportunity for fun and revelry.
I think we’re been misguided to view death as a negation of life. As Mitch Albom articulated in his book, Five People You Will Meet In Heaven, death is a very intrinsic part of life. After all, every sentence ends with a punctuation mark. But you never hear of any writer affected by a peculiar phobia to punctuation. Well, we’re the author of our lives. And thus, we’re aware that death is a vital necessity to life.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating suicide, especially when you’r perfectly healthy. You should live your life to the fullest. But eventually, just like every story comes to a conclusion, so does life. Like it or not, we’re all going to be six-feet-under. So, we can either dread that inevitable day or we can lie on our caskets with a smile on our faces