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Posts tagged: end of life

Life’s ending ~ our choice?

If you were in a critically compromised health state (you determine what that means), would you choose to discontinue your life?

An Indiana man did exactly that after suffering a fall. Tim Bowers, 32, fell out of a tree while hunting, crushing his C3, C4 and C5 vertebrae. He would need constant care, including ventilator-assisted breathing, for the rest of his life.  Family and care givers asked Tim if he wanted to continue his life and he emphatically shook his head “no.”

Tim died peacefully with friends and loved ones at his side. 

(S-R archive photo: Lovely R. Suanino, a respiratory therapist at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, N.J., demonstrates setting up a ventilator.)

At the end…what will you do?

If we have advance notice of our approximate time of death (“Mr. Jones, you have stage four cancer…you have perhaps four months left”), how will we choose to spend the time?

A colleague of mine died of cancer and she worked that last year, after diagnosis, until in one day she went from her office to her hospital bed to a few days in that bed where she died.

Many of us watched as she came to work each day, sighing, “If that were me, I’d have my office cleaned out within two hours after the doc delivered the news and spend my savings on…” We each had our own plan.

But many people, like Nora Ephron, choose to continue working as long as they can. Even when I was in the middle of my own cancer treatment, I co-authored a book with Becky and Dan Kendall, a Jesuit priest. It was at that computer where I lost my sense of the looming decisions, the icky consequences of each choice and the physical pain from surgery. When I write, I leave “kronos” time and enter a different place. A nice place where inspiration comes from outside of my own consciousness.

So, perhaps, if one’s death is preceded with advance notice, one can choose to take that precious time and “work” – when work is a place of contentment, satisfaction and joy.

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

Ask a question: Catherine welcomes questions about aging issues and grief. Email her at

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