When it's my time to go, I want to die like my grandfather, peacefully in his sleep. Not screaming like the other passengers in his car. Or so the old joke goes.
Dying in my sleep would be good. I think most of us agree it would be our top choice or at least a close second. Perhaps it harkens back to that insane, now I lay me down to sleep prayer so many children are taught by well-meaning parents. Frankly the whole idea of, if I should die before I wake, was enough to make falling asleep a real childhood nightmare. But now that I'm old enough to appreciate the ugliness of so many of its alternatives, what seemed twisted then has become preferable now.
Of course, there's a lot to be said for those people lucky enough to enjoy a spirited, top to bottom run down Whistler Mountain then hit the ground dead, still in their bindings, outside Dusty's or the GLC. It seems to happen every year or so, and other than missing out on that final refreshing beverage, I'd probably choose it over dying in my sleep. But a top to bottom non-stop run, a couple of cold ones at the bar and leave someone else with the tab? Yeah, baby, that's got to be the ultimate.
Unfortunately, we don't get to choose. Well, most of us don't.
Ruth Goodman chose. In a very public way, Ruth Goodman ended her life earlier this month with an overdose of barbiturates in her Vancouver home. While there's nothing terribly unusual about someone — especially someone elderly; she was 91-years-old — choosing suicide, Ms. Goodman's suicide was terribly unusual.
She wanted us to talk about it. She wanted us to think about it. She wanted us to consider why we can make the choice to end our lives but we can't make the choice to have someone, preferably a physician, help us do it in such a way we're unlikely to either botch the effort and end up living a dreadful nightmare or do it successfully but in a dreadful, messy manner.
Although she had Crohn's disease, she was by no means terminally ill. She did not have intolerable pain or a terminal condition other than life itself. She was not — although there will be those who disagree — insane. She was a happy grandma who lived in her own home and still led an independent life.
She was also a fighter and fierce believer in personal freedom. She and her husband were Americans who decided in 1966, at the height of the Vietnam War, Vancouver might be just their kind of town. To protest that war, to protest the racism that had been played out in bloody riots in major American cities since 1964, and to give her family a better life, she and her husband left the Land of the Free and moved to the Great White North.