Member Rara Avis
John, it's hard sometimes to make those decisions for someone else, no matter how much we might love them. It's much, much harder, however, to make those decisions for ourselves.
No one I've watched waste away, and there have been far too many of those, has ever convincingly wanted to die. They've had bad moments, of course, when pain drowned all sense of hope, but those moments never lasted beyond the tempering of their immediate discomfort. No one I've ever watched die has lost all semblance of hope.
After all, John, that's exactly what you're describing: A sustained and utter loss of all hope that things might get better, that there might yet remain some few fleeting moments of pleasure and satisfaction to be gained from continued life. Some people think the human condition is defined by love. I think, beyond even love, we are shaped by a nearly unquenchable capacity for hope. Life is hard from the moment we are born -- into pain, discomfort, and hardship -- and it always, always just gets harder and harder. We endure the bad in hope of savoring the good.
Perhaps there comes a time in the life cycle when hope finally dies, when the bad really does outweigh even the remotest possibility for good, but frankly I've never seen it. I've seen scores, maybe even hundreds, of people say they would never want to "live that way," but they always seem to say it when they are younger and "that way" seems far, far removed from their present life. When it comes time to actually make those decisions, though, they always seem to find some reason to want to continue living. That is the essence, I think, of who and what we are.
People who give up easily don't have to worry about getting old. I suspect those have long ago been weeded from our gene pool. We are stubborn, and strong, and in the beautiful words of Dylan Thomas, we shall "not go gentle into that good night," but will instead "Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Death is not a decision we can ever make for another. Indeed, until our own moment actually and irrevocably arrives, I don't think it's a decision we can even make for ourselves. Were we to know with absolute certainty the day we would die, we still couldn't reliably predict the moment when the smallest sliver of hope would forever disappear from within our heart.
In truth, I suspect it never quite does.