To Die Like a Dog: the Personal Face of the Euthanasia Debate
This book is undoubtedly the result of an evolutionary process. It began as therapy, then, as I recovered and embraced the bigger picture, the need arose to add voices to my own. In making the decision to publish my experience, I felt I had a responsibility to not only present an overview to the environment which creates situations like mine, but also to offer a solution to the problem.
The overview is provided by Dr Philip Nitschke, Director of EXIT (Australia) as I felt he was the one person within my reach who deals with the hard yards of the euthanasia debate on a daily basis. He has my everlasting gratitude for agreeing to help me when he could so easily have patted me on the head and sent me on my way. After spending several days in his company as he worked on his contribution and educated me on the reality of the debate I was embracing, he now also has my everlasting respect. I was granted a glimpse of a compassion, dedication and integrity that is a rare thing these days.
A solution to the problem is provided courtesy of the Dutch government. Their booklet of frequently asked questions regarding their euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation offers, in layman's terms, an insight into legislation in situ. This publication was produced by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Foreign Information and Communications Department, DVL/VB) in co-operation with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and the Ministry of Justice.
exactly, that this story began except that it was years ago, and it all started so simply that it went unmarked in our lives. Looking back, trying to pinpoint it as I best I can, all I really see is the vague outline of conversations, of evenings shared, of promises made. I'�ve learnt since, that this is the way of these things; that the most cataclysmic moment in your life can begin with a single word.
Growing up in our family felt good. We ran free, but protected, encouraged and nurtured, but never indulged. My parents somehow struck the right balance, a fusion of no nonsense discipline and love.
Lots of love. The tough, gruff kind from my Dad, my rock. Not the kind of man to kiss and cuddle, but always, always there for us. Always. It's an amazing thing to be able to say that I never heard my parents argue. I'�m not saying that they never did¦ we just never witnessed it. They were good like that.
Sometimes I would sneak out of bed, creep down the long room that joined the bedrooms to the rest of the house and spy on them through the thinnest opening in the living-room door. Somehow it felt exciting and naughty to be up, out of bed, and listening in on forbidden conversations. I imagined they were forbidden, because I never really heard anything. They would talk quietly, comfortably, and sometimes they didn'�t say anything at all. It was then that he would just look at her, over his paper, as she was knitting or watching TV, not knowing she was being watched. He would look at her and smile his very special, gentle smile that I knew was secret and special because the rest of the world never saw it ... it was just for her.
It must have been impossible to not love my mother. She was beautiful, not just in the way that all mothers are beautiful but with a breathtaking blend of perfect skin, high cheekbones, and an easy smile that started deep inside and shone on out.
She loved us and we knew it.
My teenage years were a roller coaster of small-town adventures and I gave my parents a decent run for their money;dancing up to the boundaries that my mother set, charming and laughing my way through them, only to skid to a halt against my father's. He was her back-up and my rock¦ not that I appreciated it back then.
When I was sixteen, they joined forces and grounded me �til I was thirty. I don'�t even remember what that was for, but it must have been good!
My father died a month after my thirtieth birthday.
Just like that. No warning, no illness, no gradual decline into powdery old age. No goodbyes, no I'm sorry's, just a half finished cup of coffee and the lawns in need of a mow.
I thought that was the worst of the worst, as black as it could get. We staggered from the blow for a long, long time. I wrote little girl lost poems for my father and was cruel to my mother in my grief.
Considering myself educated on these matters now, I decided it must be far better to know that you are going to die, to show some signs of failing so that everyone can see it coming and get ready. I announced to my mother that when her time was up I hoped she would be considerate enough to give us plenty of warning, so as to lessen the pain.
The Gods were listening ...
... and rolled up their sleeves.
at the time of writing this, nearly three years since Joy died. The house I bought as a hovel, a project to keep myself busy and sane, is now a cosy little home. I have finished writing it all down as best I can, and I have stopped cutting myself.
In the first few days after Joy's death, the Detective Sergeant made several calls to my brother'�s cell phone to check that I was being watched over. I answered one call and, accidentally, we spoke, albeit briefly. He asked with genuine concern if I was ok. For the first time in my life I couldn'�t even pretend that I was, but I desperately wanted to be, one day. So I answered "I will be".
He seemed satisfied with that.
Three years later, I'm nearly there.
I'm a smiling face in the crowd.
But there's a part of me that will never heal.
How can its
In my quietest hours, in my deepest self, is the memory of that moment. I have searched for words to describe that feeling, but there are none that do it justice.
It haunts me, daily, and always will.
My years of nursing taught me this:
Euthanasia is a reality.
It happens behind closed doors, and is whispered about, but it exists because in certain circumstances it is necessary and there are humane doctors amongst us prepared to meet that reality head on with courage and compassion.
My time with my mother taught me this:
Without legislation that acknowledges the existence of euthanasia and governs its process, all you have is hope and, maybe, a promise. First published 2002.