Nothing can we call our own but Death
and that small model of the barren earth
which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
Richard II Act 3, Scene 2
His mind was made up. It wasn’t right, not this way. Not in this unfamiliar place. He knew the prevailing opinion on the tumor and subsequent strokes, that they made it unlikely that she knew where she was, or even that he was there. But that didn’t matter. He saw it in her eyes: not only recognition, but fear. She was scared of this place, of its antiseptic sterility. In his mind, her eyes seemed to plead with him. She was, in his mind, merely calling in debts owed, and payment was simple: “It is not for strangers to do this for me. I am yours, and have been always. It will be a burden for you. But I would not ask you carry it if I believed you unable.”
She would do the same for him if possible. He knew that. He also knew all the arguments against what he was now resolved to do. It was only one more injection since she was already sedated, and he would have no access to those chemicals which had been deemed the most humane for the purpose of compassionately ending a life if he left with her; injection was so accepted as the most humane way, in fact, that if he went through with what he now saw in his mind he could likely never tell another soul, for fear of being thought a monster.
The question of legalities flickered briefly within him, but he chose to suppress it. If the state’s line between legal and illegal, humane and inhumane, consisted of nothing more than a “licensed professional” pushing in the needle and using drugs pre-approved by the state, then that was a line he had no interest in toeing. That the state demanded this stressful setting, with strangers performing what he now saw not as the mere responsibility of someone who loved her, but as his sacred duty, only reinforced for him that this entire situation should be no concern of theirs. She had done so much for him. He owed her this kindness. She deserved this, a good death. A death in keeping with the prideful and dignified bearing she always exhibited in life.
She seemed to weigh nothing now. He scooped her up in a bundle of thin blanket and thinner sheet. For a brief passing moment he thought he felt her sigh, almost imperceptibly, and lean into his chest, as if to reassure herself of his presence. He left the room without so much as a glimpse into the corridor. He knew where he must go, and would not have stopped for anyone anyway. In any event, there was no one to try. If anyone saw him they did not bother. If anyone saw him, they understood.
The place was one of her favorites. There was an overgrown trail hidden just off the edge of a county road, with just enough room for one vehicle to pull off and park. The trail led, in a few hundred yards, to a small lake. From a rocky outcrop there was a small, almost hidden path down to the water’s edge. There was no beach, but the two of them had often come there to swim, him jumping from the ledge and her swimming out from the access point below. She was always afraid to jump but was always up for a swim. He smiled to himself at this thought as he pulled off the road. He shut off the engine and, glancing only momentarily into the rearview mirror, reached into the glove compartment. He put the small .38 he found there in the pocket of his jacket, and collected his passenger from where she lay in the back seat.
He had never carried her that far before, but the walk seemed to pass too quickly. Even their life together seemed to have passed too quickly now. How many people had he promised this same thing? How many relatives and friends had said something like “if that ever happens to me, if I ever get like that, just put a bullet in my head”? How many times had he said he would? What was the greater moral obligation, obeying society’s laws or keeping an oath made to a friend? That wasn’t assisted suicide anymore, at least according to the state. For that the patient had to be...well, a patient. It had to be clinical. A state proxy, in the form of a doctor, had to give a stamp of approval. That seemed to him ignoble somehow, that abnegation of the most fundamental of natural rights. If pressed in that moment he likely would have mumbled something about the right to a dignified death, but in his bones he knew the truth was both simpler and so much more profound. There is no dignity in death. The only dignity one can retain is in the choosing, in not allowing nature to have the final say, in giving the universe the finger one last time. But sometimes events or beliefs make it impossible for the dying to give the universe that last finger for themselves, and it was then, he believed, that we had the right to call in chits from those we love, and who love us. The inclusion of doctors, of government and by extension every single one of our fellow citizens, was the opposite of dignified in his mind. His undertaking was, above all else, the act of a truly free man.
He could not have said how long he had been weeping, but he found himself seated, at the edge of the lake, knees to his chest, her silent body resting beside him. Slowly he rose and, blinking through tears, started collecting a number of large rocks. He had decided this was where she should rest, in the water where they swam together. It was a good place, a place she loved. Taking the pistol from his jacket, he knelt and placed his other hand on her, looking again into her eyes. He gently removed the collar from her neck, and he believed he felt her warm tongue on his hand, saying “I will see you again my friend, in time. Thank you.” He wasn’t sure he believed, but in that moment he hoped. He wept, and he hoped.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.