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©April 1999

Carol Jane Remsburg






Death with honor.What is that?Each of us is born and each of us die.At times, our demise isnít what we would choose for ourselves.Sometimes it is swift and soft, betimes brutal, other times it is a lingering horror.For the latter, we ought to have some options.


Yes, accidents happen with the surety of the sunrise and life ends in seconds.We all accept how this happens.The survivors walk around rather stunned in the aftermath of a loved oneís demise.We logically know that we all shall pass, but the how hovers as a black rain cloud.Soon, our internal meters shunt those thoughts elsewhere.The constant image of our own mortality is an ugly reminder, something that our fragile psyches canít linger over without damage of one sort or another.


However, we must think about it from time to time.What if we contracted some hideous disease that left us months and months, maybe years of physical agony before we passed on.How would that impact us?How would it impact our loved ones?There are so many unhappy endings waiting in the wings for us, weíd rather not contemplate them.But what if . . . ?


Choosing the option to end your life, or to have someone else help you do the deed if you are unable, is a very personal choice.This isnít something that all of society, nor every culture and religion will embrace.However, that right should be available, not criminal, not up for the courts to decide.


Consider, if you will, that youíve finally been diagnosed with ALS, or something equally hideous and currently without a cure or comfort.The onset of ALS isnít sudden, but you know something isnít right.Normally by the time the true nature of the illness is discovered, you are already suffering.Your limbs wonít abide your will any longer.Being ambulatory is the second major thing to go after your fine motor skills and balance disappear.


No real pain aside from the mental anguish over not knowing what the hell is wrong with you.Your limbs are no longer at your whim, much less your command.You look at them like they belong to someone else for as much good as your will has over them.This is one disease that doesnít infest the mind, but it has everything else as its disposal.This is a slow dance of paralyzation.


Once your arms and legs succumb, then the disease reaches farther inward and deeper.Your swallowing reflex goes kaput.Eating and drinking just enough to survive wastes away your body leaving you exhausted.Your muscle control over your bowels and bladder desert you and bring you back to a more infantile state.Very soon now, it will be over.Speaking stops, it takes too much effort as you fight to breathe.Itís gradual suffocation of the worst form.Talk about criminal.


Millions of people die each year, many suffer this way or that with crippling, unspeakable pain, and endure isolation and emotional devastation.Life without pain is not living, but pain without the hope of reprieve isnít living either.For many, the option to euthanize isnít one to be considered at all.However, it should be a personal decision the victim is allowed to make and not made for them.


In our country there are rights for nearly everything and the courts battle them out daily.Yet, no one faults the owner of a tormented pet to put it out of its misery in a humane fashion.As a matter of fact, if you allow your dog, cat, horse, or other pet to agonize, you could be arrested for either negligence or cruelty to animals.In the end, we treat our pets better than ourselves and our loved ones.


Whenever it is that death comes to us, in its shadow we all pray for the ease of release; the end to our misery.None of us ever asked to be born.We had no choice as to how we were raised.Our adult lives have a certain parameter of leeway, but like as not, we are always on the receiving end of things outside of our control.For those of us who meet with sudden ends, there are no choices.As our very last act in this world, we ought to be allowed an honorable, dignified exit of our choosing if at all possible.


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