I watched this short talk on the architecture of death this morning (for what might be better breakfast entertainment?), and have mused on what I might consider a good death ever since. I don’t have an answer yet – there might not even be one – but I have some thoughts.
Sudden or Expected?
As Killing’s talk says, a greater and greater number of deaths in Western society are the candle guttering out full spent rather than a sudden snuffing. I have never been ill enough to be at risk of death, but – based on those more serious sicknesses I have suffered – I would not choose to spend my time flickering and sputtering away the half-light that remained.
But what if the ending was inevitable but the weakness was not? If I approached a pre-set moment of death in my full capabilities, I could plan the things that I wanted to do and ignore things that did not matter.
A fine thought. However, based on the projects I have worked on, there are always more things to do than time. Knowing the deadline well in advance would risk guilt that the early days were not spent more intensely, assessment instead of experience, and closing period made as if ill by a race to do more and more.
So, to end without warning might be better. To live life and then…
If there is an afterlife, that will be my focus; if there isn’t I won’t know anything after death. Either way, anything after death will be the concern of the living rather than I. So any concern I have about aftermath is an act of compassion (or spite) not death.
But does that make it irrelevant to the question of Good Death? Or is minimising sadness to others (or even providing benefit) a trait of good death? I certainly don’t want to harm others.
Which is where my wonderings slip into smoke. If social or ethical issues are a quality of good death, then a good death is meaningful rather than pointless, at the end of a worthwhile life rather than continuing a lack of impact. If there are no considerations beyond its impact on me, then a good death is pleasant rather than not, so the ethical and social issues act only as factors on my mental state should I see the death coming.
Of one thing I am certain, prophesied or not, transition or cessation, a good death is one that is not sought for itself
What would be your good death? Is any definition of good death meaningless without the answer to whether there is an afterlife?