What Would I Do If...I Found Out I Was Dying - Shakespeare's Idea #2

>> Friday, December 4, 2009

Shakespeare gave me two award-winning ideas and so we're trying the second one, now. There was actually more interaction on the first idea than I expected, so I'm off on idea number two. Her idea, verbatim, was...

Do a "What Would You Do When..." blog... and tell us what to do when something unusual happens: winning the lottery, surviving nuclear disaster, getting lost in the woods, crashing our vehicle, having a heart attack, filing for divorce, losing the family pet, planning our own funeral, etc. It all sounds depressing, but it doesn't have to be, and you know how to think outside nearly every established social box there is...
Well, of course, the temptation is to do something cool, the kind of thing one daydreams about, but that didn't sit right for me for a first one, so I'm going go down a logical path, given that I'm the oldest person in my household (by at least fifteen years), overweight, etc.

So, what would happen if I discovered I were going to die, say from some sort of disease?

First, let me say, it's easy, in the comfort of my current health, to speculate and assume I'd handle everything stoically. In truth, however, no one really knows how they'd react to something like this (or, in fact, one of their daydreams) - or so I assume. The best I can do is speculate.

So, now that we're clear this is speculation, let me, um, speculate.

My first reaction would probably be shock. I'm forty-two, I have small children and a husband I'd really like to live a full life with. And I'm not terribly fond of pain. I don't know many diseases that don't involve a substantial quantity of pain.

I'd like to think the second order of business once I came to grips with the notion of dying is what can I do to best protect my family. What are my options, if any, to avoid death, and do they put my family's well-being at risk. If trying to buy me an extra six months of life is going to sacrifice any chance my children have for college or put my husband in debt for the rest of his life, I'd rather not.

Truth is, I'm not particularly worried about the dying part. I would like to live longer, but death doesn't frighten me much. So, if I'm going to go, what I'm really worried about is leaving my family in the best possible state.

That means working until the end, if possible. I have excellent life and health insurance with work and, if I can keep working, my family can take advantage of them. If the end is inevitable, better not to waste precious resources on treatments to prolong the discomfort at my family's expense. I'd update my will, explain the situation to my children (in detail proportionate to their age and ability to understand), do what I could to arrange as many details for after I was gone as I could so that a grieving family won't have additional heart-wrenching details to worry about. It's OK. I'm not particularly sentimental.

And, if I start to feel sorry for myself (and it will happen), I can remember how lucky I am not to be having to do all this for one of my children or my husband instead of myself. As hard as dying would be, it would be better than losing a child.

I'd contact family members outside my household and make sure my husband and children have a support network. I'd work with my husband to devise a post-death strategy to help him with education so he could take care of our children most effectively. If possible, I'd take care of selling the house, etc.

And then I'd do everything I could to enjoy the time I had remaining with the people I love most in all the world. I'd treasure each of my baby's giggles, each flash of my son's dimples, each sarcastic comeback from my teenager, each embrace from my husband.

I'm a very lucky woman to be loved, to have people with me I love so much. I can't imagine a better way to go than in their company.


  • flit

    yikes! You trying to give me nightmares? NOT ALLOWED!

    Just so we're clear

  • Roy

    I second Flit's "Yikes!" Sounds like a good plan, though.

    Somebody once wrote a story, may have been Harlan Ellison, about a guy who, on being given such a death sentence, was at a loose end until he witnessed somebody trying to mug somebody else. He shot the mugger and pinned a note to the guy saying he'd been shot for being nasty. That gave him an idea, and he spent the rest of his useful days playing vigilante knight errant. Well, what could they do to him, kill him? Heh, heh!

  • Stephanie B

    Damn, cool premise, Roy. Good thing I'm already up to my eyeballs in story ideas or I'd be very tempted.

  • Jeff King

    I would spend every waking second with my family...

    I would work on my book and hope to finsih it enough so my family could have somthing to always have that was realy a part of me. somthing that defined me, somthing that i hope they could connect to...

    best i could ask for.

    i think i would rather have this option that just up and dieing without warning.time to prepare better sounds good to me.

  • Flemisa

    This evening at a Knitters Night someone was mentioning about a book she was reading and I wish I could remember the name but it is too late at night. Was along the lines of Living to Die and the ideas that the North American culture has to death.
    At a talk, a woman had come up to him having just learned that day that she had an incurable illness. His response was that from the day we are born, we are just waiting to die. She had been given a Doctor's time line but actually, none of us know when we will die.
    I have worked as a Police Dispatcher and for a Rehabilitation Company (they helped people who had been in moderate to severe accidents to arrange appropriate therapies) and know the uncertainties of life.
    Since a teenager I have subscribed to the theory that I am going to live until I am 125 but if I die tomorrow my major regret is the lack of time with loved ones and not the things I could have, should have, would have done.
    May today be the best day to date and tomorrow even better.

  • Stephanie B

    Jeff, I can sympathize with that. I hate leaving anything undone.

    Flemlisa, there's something to be said for that. I found this exercise surprisingly undisturbing. Death has never frightened me much, I guess. I just don't want my family to suffer more than necessary.

  • Anonymous

    I would first make sure my children would be taken cared of financially. Then, I'd take a trip to some island and just absorb the tranquility. Then, I'd fight whatever disease it is that I have and if I go, I go.

    Can you do a reading? I think I'm in love with someone but am not sure if he's feeling what I am feeling. Curiosity has gotten the best of me, couldn't resist asking this.


  • Shakespeare

    I think that, unless I get the 108 years I'm hoping for, I'm going to be pretty pissed about dying. Not sad. My life's been pretty damned wonderful. But I have so much left to DO yet, and I'd be pissed that I hadn't had time to get it done.

    I'll probably feel that way at 108, though. I need to get to work!

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