Friday, August 7, 2009

Ode To A Living Will

I wrote my living will yesterday rather than posting my column. It served a myriad of purposes, the least of which gave the gatekeeper a day off fending those slings and arrows from both extremes of the political spectrum picking apart my prose and carrying on about stuff I didn't write nor intend but rather squabbling among themselves over some intangible twist introduced by gremlins commenting on that post. (Just kidding, folks.)

It felt oh so good mocking with in-your-face defiance those Republican Congressmen who stood on the floor of the House and at press briefings claiming an obscure provision in the health insurance reform legislation drafts that the government is poised to commit euthanasia on the elderly. Just to refresh your memories, that section, if it passes into legislation, would allow Medicare a once-every-five-years payment for voluntary doctor and patient counseling on options how us geezers wish to die. In other words, the government will pay to have someone help you write your living will.

Living wills along with last wills and testaments are good. It allows the patient to decide for himself and get his house in order. It avoids Terri Shiavo scenarios in which her husband wanted to mercifully end her life after years in coma and her parents wanted to prolong it.

I'm no different than millions of others who view life coming to its ultimate end. The finality is breath taking. What happens after that is a new journey none of us really know, for sure. You reach a point where finally you don't see yourself as indestructible, immortal and Master of the Universe as you did in your twenties. You recognize those really dumb decisions made in a course of a lifetime and have reconciled yourself to live with them. As the lyrics say in that famous song recorded by Frank Sinatra, "I did it my way."

Actually, my living will is a misnomer. It is a list of preferences spelled out in order for my son and my doctor know what to do when the time finally comes. Among them is a DNR. For you youngsters, it means Do Not Resuscitate. I have nary a clue when that time will come other than glancing at the life expectancy schedules written by those morbid underwriters.

I'll be damned to be included in what a Dartmouth University survey determined that the last six months of an elderly person's life costs $46,000 in medical bills. It's not that I want to save the taxpayers and all the others in my insurance pool a dime. Is my life so precious that spending $35,000 on an operation which stands a 20% chance of survival and prolonging my sorry state an extra few days or months worth the expense?

The important issue is quality of life, not the cost or some moral issue relating to sanctity-of-life and damn the torpedoes. I suppose my views fit nicely with the ancient Greeks who limped into the forests to die.

In my case, the estate I leave to my son and two grandchildren is a joke. I mean, after my son clears out my stuff and holds a garage sale to dispense of it, he may wind up with $2.50. At least that ghoul humor is shared by my son. But, the memories I leave and the legacy I left are priceless.

That is why I prefer cremation. Take the ashes some convenient time, drive to the Pacific Ocean and drop them in the surf where I spent my youth and were the most carefree period of my life. No funeral or memorial services. Just a wake among friends and family and let the good times roll.

I'll have a smile on my face when I meet that tired out gatekeeper in the sky.

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