Garrison Keillor said it better than anyone. His “novel of Lake Wobegon”, Pontoon (Viking, Penguin Group, New York, 2007), is centered on the life and death of Evelyn, her cremation and the burial of her ashes in a bowling ball, dropped into the lake. She was a refreshing rebel in a conservative community in an imaginary town in the northern United States.
” ‘It was how she wanted to go, in her sleep’, said Myrlette, and they all knew that was true. No sickness, no decline, no hobbling around the Good Shepherd Home looking cadaverous and dribbling coffee down yourself, peeing your pants, rocking back and forth, a caged animal in the zoo, your mind turned to sawdust and your hip shooting with pain at every step – not for our Evelyn ! A rousing good time at Moonlite Bay, a couple of drinks, some laughs, come home, wave goodbye, go to bed and don’t wake up” (pp.82-83).
Fear of flying, fear of dying. The former makes more sense than the latter. I would prefer not to die in a plane crashing into a mountain or plummeting into the ocean, but in my bed, in my sleep. Will I wake up tomorrow morning ? I already know that if I don’t, I will be among the lucky ones. When you realize that there is no after-life, no God to judge, condemn or reward us, the only problem with dying is the pain, the indignity, the dependence which so often accompany it. Dying in your sleep is the best way to go. Euthanasia is second best, and a right worth fighting for.