June 24th, 2024

Death an inevitable part of life that should be celebrated


By Lethbridge Herald on February 9, 2023.

Editor:

On Jan. 4, Mr. John Warren passed away by “Medical Assistance in Dying.”

Three days later on Jan. 7. the Lethbridge Herald published the obituary and his letter to the editor.

In the letter he was promoting the environmentally friendly ”green burial” and announced that he would be interred at the green cemetery near Pavan Park. 

I didn’t know Mr. Warren. However, the chain of events touched me deeply and led me to reflect on the shifting paradigm about death.

I believe it is important for us to be aware of the cost to the planet earth to sustain an average person like me who lives in modest affluence in the northern hemisphere. Though I am extra careful limiting the cost I impose on the planet.

If everybody has my lifestyle, we need three-and-a-half more planet earths. Mr. Warren’s wish to limit the cost to a minimum was admirable and exemplary.

Before I go any further however, I want to make sure that you know I love life. I am determined to live a healthy long life and wish the same for everybody. I exercise regularly, enjoy the company of people and all creatures great and small, animals, and plants.

I try hard to remain healthy so I will not be a burden to my loved ones and to the public purse.

But mainly because I enjoy life enormously, I have persuaded myself that there should be an end to life. Because life has a limit it is precious and exciting. Endless pleasure is tiresome, even a curse.

It had made sense that we dreaded death when it was everywhere and was often very painful. Only a century ago, the majority of the people died too early, long before their time. Death was the serious threat to the survival of the human race. Extinction was a real possibility. 

It was natural to fear the future of the species. When I went to Lesotho in southern Africa, I lived the first six months in a remote village to learn the language. There was a cemetery for the missionaries. Among them were infants’ from the family of Thomas Arbousset, the first French missionarywho came in 1836. They died within a year of birth.

A high infant mortality was normal only two centuries ago. The Arbousset family were relatively better fed Europeans. Imagine what it was like in less developed nations.

Even in Europe, one pandemic of plague wiped out a third of the European population every time in the first millennia CE.

There are other examples. Smallpox brought by Europeans colonists drove the North American indigenous population nearly extinct. When I was seven, three friends next door died of dysentery within a week one summer. Life on earth was extremely fragile even in my lifetime. It was natural to celebrate every birth and to dread death.

But those days are gone thanks to science. We are better prepared even for natural disasters. Death is beginning to be seen as natural now because of science, not tragedy.

We have realized that death is a part of life. It is not punishment, not “wage of sin” as St. Paul put it. All life-forms die: the question of good or bad, saints or sinners is irrelevant.

From time to time, ending life can be a better option than incurable and unending pain and suffering. We live in the days of MAID. A few thousand people take the option every year in Canada.

I am not a pessimist like Soren Kierkegaart who termed life “illness that inevitably leads to death.” Life is wonderful, not a terminal illness.

Life and death are two sides of a coin: there is no life without death.

Finitude enhances the joy of life knowing there is a beginning and an end.

We have to outgrow the delusional fantasy that we can avoid death if we are good, pray and try hard. 

Physicians have begun to question the notion that death is a failure in their profession. It is nobody’s fault: it’s eventuality is the natural order.

Science advanced rapidly. In a few decades, life expectancy became longer, many people survived until into the 90s. One hundred-year-olds are no longer rare. 

There are already procedures that can keep the heart pumping as long as you want even when the brain is dead. 

Why should suffering be prolonged without any possibility of cure? The end should be the time to celebrate the life well lived. It’s graduation. 

Dust to dust, particles to particles. We will be part of the universe in the original form of existence as energy, particle, quanta or whatever. 

What a glorious prospect!

Tadashi (Tad) Mitsui

Lethbridge

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buckwheat

Didn’t know Mr. Warren either. However, his obit brought out some thoughtful points for those inclined to pursue their destiny. The best line in the obit. “Don’t cry because it is over, Smile because it happened. Simple and applicable to life’s journey, including death.

biff

i felt the same when i read his obit.

manby

Thank you Tad for your comments about my husband John, an extraordinary man, as I know you are as well.
This planet earth as you say cannot sustain us..
John after he first became sick , started with others ,the Lethbridge chapter of then called Dying With Dignity.. and fought long and hard for this right.
From my experience It was a peaceful death…of two lovers that had been together for 67 years… I loved you musings in your letter and thank you for discussing this issue of not only death but the green burial..
I celebrate your thoughts, why should suffering be prolonged, when there is no cure, why make people suffer longer..a death is sad ,but it was so gentle, hugged by me, and surrounded by our daughters.
I agree, Tad with you a glorious prospect.

biff

thank you for bringing this approach to burial to more of a light. i feel most of us were not aware. moreover, i appreciate your outlook on life, and agree further that we should be able to choose to have a humane way out. we do as much for our beloved pets. i feel you are people that made a conscious decision to to look at life as being about growing love, service to others, and finding true joy and beauty. if only that was as easy as it sounds. it is, however, most enlightening and rewarding as we get better at it. best wishes.

biff

a wise entry, tad. thank you. it is further said that we cannot avoid “bad” or uncomfortable events – all happens to assist us in our spiritual growth. how we choose to respond, the perspective we take, the degree to which we do our best to act with love – that is the true measure of meeting life’s challenges.