There are those among us who wish to die. Some are even outspoken about their wish. When we know or may even love such a person, what are we to do?
I have an elderly friend who is actively seeking death. So far as I know, he has stopped short of attempting suicide. (About five years ago he did ask me for information on how to commit suicide. I refused to provide it.)
My friend actively sought a natural death by staying isolated and alone at home. In our conversations, he often describes his life as having been an abject failure; it was most certainly not that. He stopped taking his daily outdoor walks. He didn’t eat regularly and often drank alcohol excessively. I am not sure what he may have done about taking his prescription drugs.
Recently there was a new and troubling exchange between us. It started when I wrote to tell him that I was travelling to his city and planned to stop in for a quick visit. He answered with an outright rejection of my offer. He went so far as to tell me that he no longer regarded me to be his friend. I was shocked and confused by his statement. I had done nothing to cause him to reject me and end our friendship. However, after a few days of reflection, I realized that he was making it easier for me when his death actually occurs. He was performing his final act as my friend before departing this life. I decided to honor his wishes and let him die alone in peace. Sadly, when he does die I will receive no notification of his passing. He will become a memory.
Should I have let him pull away from life without doing something? I’m still not sure. He is alone and located in a distant city so my options are limited. I guess I could contact DSS in his city; he would really have hated my doing that. He did not want the help of strangers in any attempt to lengthen his life. After caring reflection, I think my doing nothing was the best path and perhaps only real path open to me.
Many of us have a family member or friend who occasionally lets their desire to die be known. Their reasons are varied. They may be financially, physically or emotionally broken. They may be in severe, continuous pain. They may feel they are “the last one left” after the loss of a loving partner and many contemporary family members and friends. No longer able to cope with living alone, death has increasing appeal to them.
If you know a person who has made the decision to die, what can you do? What should you do? What will you do? Not an easy decision, is it?