Composite image Leila Dougan for Maverick Life
We are all going to die, and while there are different theories as to what comes after this, there is certainty about death. This podcast episode doesn’t shy away from the facts; it invites you to meditate on these final moments and explore what it means to cross over to the other side, honoring life through stories of death.
A good death – Terrible, thanks for asking
- Format: Single episode
- Year: 2021
- Listen on: Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you find your podcasts.
At first it may seem morbid, the Terrible, thanks for asking site has many podcasts on death. But listening, it’s obvious that it’s more than sadness and sadness – quite the opposite in fact.
It is a celebration of life and of life, and of the beauty enveloped in the mortal human breath. So while they may break your heart – bring the tissues – host Nora McInerny tells death tales with all the dignity and care they deserve.
“Ends matter, not just for the person but, perhaps even more so, for those who remain.” So begins McInerny in this episode, A good death, quoting Atul Gawande and his book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.
“We all want to die as well as possible,” says McInerny. But what exactly does it mean to die well? How would you choose to go if you had control over it?
Ron Deprez chose to die in his favorite place: in the house he had renovated in Deer Isle, an island off the coast of Maine, surrounded by his family. He spent his last days browsing old photographs, reliving memories and gazing at the Atlantic Ocean. In April 2020, Ron was the second person in Maine to use the state’s new law legalizing medically assisted death with dignity.
Her story is told by her daughter, Esmé Deprez, as she shares her father’s last days.
Ends matter, not just for the person but, perhaps even more so, for those who remain.
Ron suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), an incurable and progressive disease of the nervous system that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control … Eventually, ALS affects the control of the muscles needed to move , talk, eat and breathe, ”explains an article from the Mayo Clinic.
In the months leading up to his death, illness had ravaged the body of Ron, 75.
He “was starting to look weak and frail – and scared,” McInerny says. He was a man who had run eighteen marathons, enjoyed skiing and hiking, reading poetry, and hosting candle light dinners with his family. Now he barely had the strength to hold his new granddaughter.
“The first year of my daughter’s life coincided with the last year of my father’s life,” recalls Esme. “She was awakening to the world, learning to become a human, learning to walk. And he was slowly declining and losing the ability to walk.
On March 12, 2020, Ron texted Esme: He was ready to die.
“It wasn’t a total shock, but it wasn’t something I was ready for,” she admits. Still, she and her husband are traveling with their baby girl from New York to Maine. They don’t know what’s coming next, or how long they’ll be there, but that was where she needed to be, Esme said.
Meanwhile, Ron was making his first oral application to qualify under Maine’s new death with dignity law. He was to make a second oral request after that, and then a written request at least 15 days later.
“Critics would characterize my father’s death as suicide. But he wanted to live. He was going to die of his illness whether or not he used deadly drugs to speed it up. The word ‘suicide’ never seemed appropriate, ”Esme writes here.
Once Ron had qualified and the prescription for the drugs to end his life was ready, Esme went to the pharmacy.
“It was a mixture of ‘this is crazy, what am I doing?’ and also a huge relief… that he could end his life in his own way – that’s what he wanted, ”she said.
They then prepared to leave the mainland and travel to the island, “bringing Ron home to Deer Isle to die,” McInerny recounts.
Ron’s illness kept her from walking, so Esme’s husband brought her into the house, “which was a beautiful act of love, I thought,” she said.
Now in Deer Isle, they know they are entering Ron’s last days. That night, Esme sleeps in bed with her father looking after him and reads poems to him by one of his favorite poets. By pure coincidence, she turns to the poem, Suicide, by Edna St Vincent Millay.
With me, from where fear and faith fly;
Alone I came, and I go alone,
And don’t know where or to whom I’m going;
But that you can’t follow me, I know that.
This death is not suicide, but as McInerny says, “for it to open the book to this poem is like a little wink from the universe.”
They spent the next day just being there with Ron. They go through photo albums, remembering each other, they look at the sea and they cherish every moment.
“Treat the thoughts like clouds, just watch them go by,” Ron says, and they do, paying attention to the little moments, the last moments, that they have together.
“The specter of death was definitely hanging over us, but we could laugh and live in the moment, because he was no longer afraid of dying this excruciating and prolonged death,” Esme explains. Instead, he was doing it on his own terms.
At 4 p.m. Ron is ready. “It was almost an admission. He turned to me and told me he wouldn’t do this if he felt he had another choice. It was like an apology, I told him I understood.
“There was no better way to go than this… there is a good death,” Esme believes. DM / ML
You can read more of Ron and Esmé Deprez’s story here.
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This notice was published: 2021-07-09 16:45:50