The Flickering Light – How we Die
Essentially everyone dies the same. Our heart stops beating, but for different reasons. How and even why this happens may be irrelevant to most of us. When it is our time, it is our time. If there is even the slightest chance of us prolonging our life or the life of a loved one, we will do it. “Extraordinary means” are defined by the individual and we all see them differently in different circumstances.
If someone has been suffering for years with a terminal illness and has been in a lot of pain, “extraordinary means” may be defined rather narrowly. We don’t want to prolong suffering. There is a fine line between treatment and torture. If this person is of advanced age, the decision can be easier than if they are in the prime of their life, or they are a child.
We do not allow our pets to suffer and it is considered the humane thing to do (to “put them down”) when they are perceived as suffering. We would never let our pets suffer. But people are another matter. It is not that we want them to suffer, but rather we don’t want to be the one to say “no more”, the end has come. That moral and ethical dilemma is not something we can tolerate so easily with people. It is not something we can accept with ease and decide without serious consideration and consultation with others.
But, as the body begins to shut down, the process can be watched a bit at a time and it is very much like a flickering light. There is energy and life and color one day. The next there is sleep and pallor – grayness. The spirit and the body itself come and go, on and off, back and forth. They flicker within the weeks and days and hours. They may have a week or more of engagement and activity and a week or more of limited conversations and responsiveness. This can also vacillate between the days or even the hours. It can come and go without reason or warning