A close acquantaince told me a story recently which has lingered in my mind. Strange how certain things linger like that. I think I forget pretty much immediately or never even really hear 95% of what I am told, but a few things linger.
She had been visiting the dying father of her friend. She had known the old man for some years and spoken to him on occassion but I dont think they had ever spent any real time together. The dying man had been some sort of fairly powerful man in China and then Taiwan. I believe he had been in the Nationalist Army and fled to Taiwan together with Chiang Kaishek in 1949 at the end of the Chinese civil war. In Taiwan he was a govt official for awhile and then I think went into business. I'm not sure the details but he ended up quite powerful and rich. In the 1970's he and his family emigrated to the US and opened several higher end restaurants that were pretty successful. I think he had about 5 kids.
In any event, my friend (a writer) was intrigued by his story and so spent quite a bit of time with him in the hospital talking to him. One day she went in and his condition had deteriorated. He took her hand and said Lei, I am dying. I don't want to die. She said that the look in his eyes and the sound of his voice was this terrible mixture of fear, despair, and maybe even confusion. All his adult life he had been the type of person who was in control of everything, but this he couldn't control. He did not want to let go. It was hard for him to die. He died the next day.
Something about this story got to me. I can picture the image she described very clearly. I can imagine myself as the old man. Dying like that would be unbearable I think. You would hope when you were that old (he was over 80) you might have made some sort of peace with it but it isn't the case I think, especially among the intelligent. Much better to die suddenly somehow, or to get alzheimers and lose your mind first, or even to kill yourself at the time of your choosing. How can you lie in bed for a long period knowing your death is imminent. Especially if you don't believe in any afterlife. Anyone with any sort of terminal illness should have the option of assisted suicide at the time of their choosing even if early in the course of the disease.