This was at lower_tadfield
, and it made me cry. 'I intend, before the endgame looms, to die sitting in a chair in my own garden with a glass of brandy in my hand and Thomas Tallis on the iPod.
'Oh, and since this is England, I had better add, "If wet, in the library". Who could say that this is bad?'
Sir Terry Pratchett is one of my all-time favourite authors. His Discworld books have given me many very enjoyable hours, mixing humour and deft satire in with philosophical commentary on the human condition and deeply thought-provoking questions. I've learnt more about literary cliches and tropes and archetypes and such from the Discworld
series than in a year of English Lit with Mrs Desiree Teo.
A year or two ago, he revealed that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and due to the reaction, jokingly said some time later that he wasn't dead yet. quantum_witch
actually did a comic about that, and if I can find it I'll link it here.
In this article, he speaks out, calling for the law to allow assisted suicides in the United Kingdom.We would not walk away from a man being attacked by a monster, and if we couldn't get the ravening beast off him we might well conclude that some instant means of less painful death would be preferable before the monster ate him alive.
And certainly we wouldn't tuck it up in bed with him and try to carry on the fight from there, which is a pretty good metaphor for what we do now, particularly with 'old-timers' disease.
(My speech-to-text programme persists in transcribing Alzheimer's as 'old-timers'. In fact, I've heard many people absent-mindedly doing the same thing, and as a writer, I cannot help wondering if the perception of the disease might be a little kinder without that sharp, Germanic intonation.)
And later in the article:
Would you know, if you suffer from Alzheimer's disease or are representing someone who is, whether the place you would be choosing resorts to 'peg feeding'?
Peg feeding is the forcible feeding of patients who refuse food. I found out about this only recently, and I'm afraid it has entirely coloured my views.
These are, after all, innocent people who are on the road to death, and yet someone thinks it is right to subject them to this degrading and painful business.
He talks about how he wishes to die:
I am enjoying my life to the full, and hope to continue for quite some time. But I also intend, before the endgame looms, to die sitting in a chair in my own garden with a glass of brandy in my hand and Thomas Tallis on the iPod - the latter because Thomas's music could lift even an atheist a little bit closer to Heaven - and perhaps a second brandy if there is time.
Oh, and since this is England I had better add: 'If wet, in the library.'
Who could say that is bad? Where is the evil here?
and that is so Pratchett - 'since this is England, I had better add: 'If wet, in the library' - that it made me want to both laugh and cry.
He talks about his Discworld character Death, who has always been one of my favourites among the Discworld's regular characters simply for his uniqueness, and the way deft humour is blended in - his Pale Horse's name is Binky. He loves cats. He's constantly trying to learn a musical instrument. He likes fly fishing. He makes Christmas, or Hogswatch, cards for his grand-daughter (he adopted her mother, who eventually marries his apprentice). How can you not love this Death?! - with his philosophical commentary on humanity.
He mentions meeting people who drew strength from his books, particularly the character of Death, as they themselves fought terminal diseases. He talks about true cases of people who want to die, yet cannot.
And he ends, poignantly, with:
Life is easy and cheap to make. But the things we add to it, such as pride, self-respect and human dignity, are worthy of preservation, too, and these can be lost in a fetish for life at any cost.
I believe that if the burden gets too great, those who wish to should be allowed to be shown the door.
In my case, in the fullness of time, I hope it will be the one to the garden under an English sky. Or, if wet, the library.
And people wonder why I love this man and his writing. He knows that he will suffer before death, and he would rather die happy, die enjoying life, die with dignity.
'Assisted suicide' is such an ugly term, with its link to the depraved, cowardly act of suicide. It should have no bearing on the dignity of choosing your own manner of death, to choosing to die happy rather than die after a long and futile struggle with pain and feeding tubes and machines. If you know that it is hopeless, why cling on?
And if, touch wood
, I ever find myself in Sir Pratchett's shoes, I would choose his path. I'd rather die in either a garden or a library, with a mug of hot chocolate, than struggle with medicine for a lost cause.
If you think about it, even after a struggle with Alzheimer's, after being shown the door to wherever it is he wants to go after death, Terry Pratchett won't be dead. He's going to live on in the hearts of the millions of fans around the world who have been touched by his books and his life.
*raises her glass [of sparkling apple juice, since I'm a minor] to Sir Terry Pratchett*
And what comes after death? Sir Pratchett speaks often of a door in this article; to where does it lead? I think Sir Pratchett himself summed that up best, in the words of his Discworld character Death: THAT'S UP TO YOU. IT'S ALWAYS UP TO YOU.
A kindly angel: Death, as portrayed in a scene from the Sky TV adaptation of Pratchett's Discworld novel The Hogfather.
(My icon is a quote from Good Omens
, co-written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I suspect Pratchett of being behind this particular line.)