Friday Night Think Tank: Dead End

Doc BrownIt’s finally Friday, Modern Philosophers!

The work week has hit a dead end, and now every road leads to the weekend.  I’m out on the porch of The House on the Hill, enjoying the gorgeous Maine weather, and thinking about the delicious salt and vinegar wings that are going to be my dinner.

Of course, after I eat, I will be heading out to the Think Tank for our weekly Philosophical Exercise.  After the week I’ve had, I really need to get the Deep Thoughts flowing.

Who’s ready to join the fun?  Bring your own chicken wings, though, because I’m starving and do not feel like sharing mine!

This week’s topic: If you had a choice, would you want to die a sudden, unexpected death that left you unable to say goodbye to your loved ones?  Or would you prefer to know death was coming and have time to put your affairs in order and say proper goodbyes?

While this topic might sound like it comes from a dark place, Modern Philosophers, it honestly does not.

I was just thinking about my parents the other night, and it occurred to me that they left this world in such different ways.  My Mom went suddenly from a heart attack, while my Dad knew he was dying of cancer.

dead endDeath is inevitable.  It is also a topic we rarely visit on this blog, even though at least one of us wears a toga and is forever yammering on about how we need to think Deep Thoughts.

How deep can we truly be getting, if we keep whistling past the graveyard, so to speak?

The Think Tank is a safe place, it’s a beautiful night, and we are amongst friends.  Let’s put this taboo subject on the agenda and see where it leads us…

I think I’d want to die quickly and unexpectedly.  At this point in my life, there is no someone special to whom I’d like to say a finally goodbye, and I have no children upon whom I’d want to impart every last bit of wisdom.

Sure, I would regret not having accomplished certain things during my life, chief among them being finding a special someone and having children, but I think that is a far more tempting scenario than knowing that death is coming and counting down the days.

My Dad was the easiest going man I’ve ever met, but it had to have been difficult on him to know that he was slowly wasting away and that every day might be his last.  I would not be able to handle that.  I would freak the $%^& out and demand for the Grim Reaper to stop pussy footing around and just come for me.

I don’t want to die.  I just don’t want to know it’s coming, and I certainly don’t want to suffer and see the reaction of people when they look at me on my death bed.  I’d hate for my mind to not be as sharp, to no longer be able to write, and to not to be able to participate in life as I normally would.

Sure, being able to prepare myself for the end, maybe crossing some items off my bucket list, mending fences, and getting to say goodbye to some people who truly matter to me would be nice, but not enough to get me to change my mind.

Which leads me to another Deep Thought: Is death about the person leaving this world, or the ones he is going to leave behind?  If it’s the latter, then I suppose it would be extremely selfish of me to choose the surprise ending.

However, if death is about the dying, then I don’t want to see it coming.

How about you, Modern Philosophers?

About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
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28 Responses to Friday Night Think Tank: Dead End

  1. AthenaC says:

    This is a great question, one I have actually thought about. A few years ago, a deacon at my old church declined and died in front of our eyes (I wrote about it here: The TL/DR is that while he was dying, he was at peace with the order of the universe and his place in it; in watching him I saw what a gift it is to have a good death. So my answer to your question is that I want to know ahead of time so that I am ready, mentally and spiritually, and of course, logistically. As I decline and die I hope to see that process as the way it is meant to be for me.

    As to the question of what death is about, I don’t think death itself is really about anything. The rituals surrounding death are there for the soul of the dead person (assuming one believes in that), but primarily to give the living a safe structure in which to experience their grief. Whether you die suddenly or with notice, your survivors have the memorial and whatever else to comfort them and help them get through their grief.

    On a lighter note, if I know I’m going to die and I buy life insurance anyway, is that fraud?

  2. Pamela Edwards says:

    This is a conversation that I have discussed with friends & family at one time or another . All of them share the same opinion as I do . We all want to go quickly & without lingering , suffering, being a burden to anyone . You don’t have quality of life when you are lingering & waiting while on meds or machines & unable to do anything . I think it is each person’s decision to choose how they want to spend the time they have left or not . Yes , friends & family will be upset & sad but it is each person’s decision not theirs. So I agree with you Austin , quickly & quietly ! They can have a party after .

  3. floridaborne says:

    My 2nd husband died a painful, lingering death. Many times I wished he’d die so he would be spared the pain he endured. My father was active until the day he died. It was a surprise to all of us when he passed away peacefully in his sleep. I don’t want a lingering death that leaves loved ones feeling guilty for wishing that I’d just die and get it over with, nor do I want them to have any guilt over not telling me they loved me before I died.

  4. It’s always about me … so it would be about the dying!
    I don’t want to see it coming.
    I planned my own funeral at a young age. So, once I’m gone, everyone will just have to get along without me.

  5. markbialczak says:

    I have thought about this because both of my parents were taken within six months of the other by a heart attack, Austin, leaving myself and my two sisters shocked, and then shocked all over again. And then a few years later, I met and married my dear wife Karen, who had lost her husband Kevin to cancer, and we’ve talked about how they’d experienced that tragic half of life’s final equation.

    I think her experience was more painful, for her and her beloved Kevin. So I think when my time comes, I’d rather go quickly.

  6. Probably this answer changes with the changing seasons of life. Right now I’d rather die suddenly. The thought of having to plan my death and all the goodbyes seems overwhelming right now. For sure I’d rather just not wake up tomorrow.

  7. Ritu says:

    That is a toughie Austin… As a youngster I would have said sudden death is the only way… But now, as a parent, I think I’d want to know it was coming, do I could do the necessary, and make my time left, more meaningful, and disowns it with those closest to me. However, if the lingering meant suffering, possibly, once my affairs were in order, I’d love the option of euthanasia, as me suffering would mean my loved ones suffering too, watching me….

  8. After watching my mum die a few weeks ago, I would go with the planned death and not the quick one. She had fought death so many times in the past year, I’m certain the Grimm Reaper used to walk past her bed and mutter what a poor sport she was till the end. She decided she wanted to die and refused meds. We assumed we had time, but it came quicker than anticipated. Death is definitely for the families and friends to reconcile with the departing spirit. We sat at her side talking, laughing, crying, but got to say our last good-byes. She went peacefully and with an expression of satisfaction on her face that showed she had the last word, as always! I hope to go that way. Sudden death used to be the appealing choice but now I know there are things people need to say, last words and songs to be shared.

  9. Anita says:

    I’ve already had this conversation with my kids. I don’t want to be a lingerer. I’ve told them that my intention is to live in a way that will leave no doubt that I loved them and leave them no guilt because I know they love me. It seems to me that if I haven’t given them what they need beforehand, they’re probably not going to get it from me on my death bed. I have my funeral planned and have written what I want read. I’d rather them hear my words of comfort to them than from someone who has no idea what’s in my heart. Besides, leave them laughing is a good policy I believe.

    I’ve also let them know I want a closed casket viewing with a picture of Meg Ryan to remember me by and if that doesn’t happen there will be rocking chairs and rattling chains to contend with!

  10. An excellent question for us modern philosophers 🙂
    I would definitely want to die suddenly. When I was a home health aide I cared for a few different hospice patients, so I say from experience that there is nothing more heartbreaking than watching someone die. Especially someone who is ready to die and begs for it daily, there were moments I had to excuse myself to shed a few tears as I tried to be professional. It is just as awful watching the family watch their loved one die a slow death.
    As for your second question, I believe death is for those you leave behind. Once you are dead, what do you have to worry or think about? Technically you don’t exist, your life force is gone and your soul has escaped into the universe, so all that remains is what and who you left behind. The impressions we make on people throughout our lives, the way we’ve made people feel is the memory they will carry of us, and that is all that survives of us.
    My 88 year old grandmother called while I was writing this and asked what I was working on. I was surprised at her response when I told her, though I suppose I shouldn’t have been considering her age. She said she thinks about these questions every day and she believes there is no better way to go than falling asleep and not waking up. She doesn’t want to be a burden on anyone and she doesn’t want to spend all of her money being cared for as she’s dying.
    And now I am thoroughly depressed.

  11. Pingback: A Modern Philosopher’s Take on Death | Contortum Designs

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