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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Dying With Dignity, and Laughing About It.

About 20 years ago I got turned on to Art Buchwald's writing and humor. For those too young to remember him, you've should look him up on Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble and check out his writing.

I enjoy his work because he has the ability to be funny without being mean, or vulgar. It's an art that's kind of been lost in the last 40 years, with the exception of a few like Buchwald and Dave Barry, the guys I consider the best humorists of the last half century.

In today's Washington Post Style section there is an article by Art called "One Glorious Sunset", it's Art answering questions he's received while waiting to die in a hospice. Not many people could make being in a hospice, and being alive to talk about, it funny, but Art finds a way to do it. Here are a few examples of his questions, and answers:
Q. Why are you in a hospice?
A. To die with dignity, when I'm supposed to die. When I came here, I was supposed to say goodbye to the world in two or three weeks. But I'm still here after nine weeks.

Q. What went wrong?
A. Nobody knows -- not even the doctors. It's fun to see a doctor who doesn't know what's wrong with you.
He goes on to mention why he doesn't appear to be sad when folks see him on TV, he's been doing a bunch of appearances since he hasn't died.
And then, hallelujah, Sharon Waxman wrote a long piece about me in the Sunday
New York Times. As you know, you never existed unless you get into the New York Times. Usually you have to settle for an obituary, but this was a feature.
Very few people who know they are dying could pull off what Art has in this piece, humor and dignity when he should be full of sorrow according to conventional wisdom.

I read it and think, that's how I want to go out, pretty much on my terms. And if my terms aren't quite working, at least make the best of it by getting some publicity.

I'm thinking about the dignity thing because I was in a few bookstores over the last couple of weeks, and saw the dueling Terry Schiavo books on the shelves. To me, the woman had no dignity in her death; or for that matter the last few years of her life; with family fighting over her.

I my own opinion, she had no dignity for the last 11 years, and no real life. If a gurgle, or an eye movement is all you can point to and say "see, he's alive", but still have to have a feeding tube in me, pull the plug.

If I can't get up to wash my own ass, switch the TV channels, pluck at my guitar, or write something, I'm not alive, I just have a pulse. Life is more than breathing, and a heart beat, it's being able to give a hug, cry at something stupid, or laugh at a good joke.

I like how Art has decided to go, his own way, picking the speakers for his memorial service, and eating too much carry out, without a tube. And I want to go with some humor, because if I can't crack a joke, or give you a smart assed answer to a question, rest assured, in my mind I am dead, let me go.

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Blogger Old Sgt said...

Well put CP, haven't read any of Art's material, but with comments like these I think I will. Have a great day and enjoy it while we still can.

6:27 AM  
Blogger Corie said...

Kind of a depressing post for a Friday, Bob! Well, maybe I'm a little sensitive because the weather here is so crappy and gloomy and I was hoping for some "funny" from you. :)
I do however get what your saying. Having seen more then my share of death and disabilities in my family the past couple years, it's caused me to think a lot about this subject too. More then I care to admit. But I'm in full agreement with you. If I can't interact with the people I love or even be able to do the basic things in life, let me go. The other part is that I never want to become a burden to my family. I want them to live happy full lives and there is no way for them to do that if they needed to bath, feed, medicate, ect., me every day. That's no way to live life for anyone of us.

11:58 AM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

I'll post something lighter tonight Corie, just for you :)

Sarge, he's a funny writer, and doesn't care who he makes fun of, he just pretty much makes fun of everyone, including himself.

1:13 PM  
Blogger shoprat said...

Sometimes laughing is the only way to deal with the worst of sorrows and the greatest of fears.That is why Monte Python is so popular with nihilists.

10:46 PM  

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