Pondering death

Book cover of 'Cartwheels' by Amy Doolittle
My Journey with ALS by AID

I was recently advised, by Shelf Life Books, of the publication of the book ‘Cartwheels’ by Amy Doolittle.

Cartwheels offers a glimpse into my world with all its pain, humour and quirky sensibilities. — Amy Doolittle

The book is subtitled ‘The Amy Updates’, which is a reference to the email newsletters that Amy wrote in the last few years of her life. They detail, with poignant honesty, her ongoing struggle with ALS.

Amy and I met at primary school, and were friends for forty years; unsurprisingly, I was on her mailing list. So having previously read the Updates as they arrived in my inbox, reading through them again bore few surprises — until, that is, I arrived at the last page of the book, which details the tragic manner in which the story of Amy’s abbreviated life reached its final conclusion.

Amy was fortunate enough to live in a society that has the resources to care, as best it can, for those who suffer such disabilities. Moreover, she was blessed with family and friends who cared enough to do what they could to help. But this same society is also one that values human life so highly that it cruelly refuses to contemplate the very real needs of someone who has borne enough pain, enough anguish, and wishes to voluntarily leave the vale of tears.

The official book launch of Cartwheels is this coming Thursday, 30 May 2013. The launch publicises the Canadian organisation Dying with Dignity. There are similar organisations across the world lobbying for a change in the way that our society handles end of life issues (a google search led me to a related UK organisation, Dignity in Dying — one that might be more likely to assist me should the need arise).

I believe that such groups are doing invaluable work on behalf of us all. We tend not to think much about death because we don’t want to think about it. But death isn’t something that we can avoid; the best we can hope for is that when the grim reaper arrives it takes us away painlessly; if we want a society that doesn’t actively interfere to prevent that, we ought to take action to ensure that it doesn’t.

About peNdantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
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18 Responses to Pondering death

  1. Wendy Tinley says:

    Hi Colin, so very, very sorry to hear about your friend Amy.

    Like you, I believe that our society has to evolve to accept voluntary exit from this world. Yes, safeguards need to be in place to protect the vulnerable from calculating and greedy relatives. However to request exit from a terminal illness, before the pain becomes unbearable, has to be both desirable and, above all, humane. There is no dignity in suffering unnecessarily.


    • pendantry says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Wendy, they’re much appreciated.

      Amy’s troubled life came to a (self-determined) end on 17 October 2009: my guess is that publication of her book was delayed to provide her family with a period of mourning. Though I may one day learn what it’s like to lose a sibling, I will only ever be able to imagine the heartbreak involved in losing one’s child — and to lose anyone dear in such a manner must be doubly hard to bear.


  2. Rachel says:

    I am sorry to hear about your friend, Pendantry.

    We allow our pets a dignified exit from this world but not ourselves. Death for most of us will be painful and drawn-out.


  3. ccgwebmaster says:

    There is a strange irony that if one has an animal that is in distress and suffering, the only course of action anyone would possibly call humane would be to put it down – to kill it.

    Yet if the person suffering is a member of our own species, this would be illegal and regarded as highly unethical by most people – even if the suffering individual expressed a consistent and rational wish to die (a choice an animal is unable to express).

    It strikes me in my cynical and somewhat disenfranchised view of the world that we have created a society controlled by people who are willing to grant almost no rights at all to us – not even the right to ask for help to opt out in the most fundamental way possible (nor even to opt out directly, but who cares about the law at that point?).

    The only freedom one can experience is to conform perfectly to the confines of the prison ordained – push against the boundaries – and one soon finds the true state of things.


  4. leavergirl says:

    There is no need to argue for a change of laws which is politically problematic. “Puttting people to sleep” leaves a bad taste for many, and not unreasonably, necessarily. Learning how to choose one’s death is quite possible. Sometimes, it is quite easy to do; other times, one relies on one’s family or friends to help. But really, that’s all it takes. We don’t need political permission for this!


    • pendantry says:

      Tricky. Read the last page of ‘Cartwheels’ and then tell me that no political action is required. I think Amy would disagree. As would I.


      • leavergirl says:

        Well, too late for me. But with a bit of luck, I will choose my way of dying anyways. There certainly is no shortage of ways available.

        You know why I don’t like the legal path? Because once you give “official people” the right to kill others, it tends to backfire. I am not gonna give them any more encouragement on this front.


        • pendantry says:

          I do hear where you’re coming from; though the way I see it it’s not a case of giving others the right to kill, but giving ourselves the right to self-terminate.


  5. leavergirl says:

    And say, how about taking me off moderation, finally? What’s with that, anyways?


    • pendantry says:

      Not entirely sure. It might be that I don’t fully understand the way the moderation works here on WordPress. I’ve just made a change that may have fixed it.


  6. Yes the plight of those who suffer a living death is sadly overlooked… While we can quite easily kill one another in the name of War.. We can not assist painlessly the death of someone begging to end their suffering and if we do, those assisting such and end are subject to a murder charge..

    And yet we don’t let animals suffer… But a Human being trapped within so much pain or who is helplessly trapped within a body that no longer functions yet his/her mind is still active… Who wants to find the Peace in the afterlife has to go to such lengths through the EU courts or go to another country to end their pain…

    I know if I were in there shoes I know I which path I would choose… for Death holds no fear for me…I would look upon it as the beginning of my next journey.

    Interesting subject that many shy away from…


  7. Nancy says:

    Hi, Please delete my earlier comment.


  8. Pingback: The right to choose | Wibble

  9. In my last comment upon your right to choose post, I thought the video was upon a recent drama of a soap series in the UK, so I do apologise… as I didnt click to watch but now see the name in relation to the book here.. .. A Fictional TV series highlighted this problem as the person took their own life after having enough and not being allowed to choose .. And as the programme was only aired this week, I thought the two were the same…I apologise for making the wrong conclusion with the ‘Soap’ reference ..


    • pendantry says:

      It’s fine, you are forgiven! :)

      (For the record, I never watch soaps. In fact, I rarely watch the goggle box. Life is too short, and telly soaps are a very, very poor imitation. IMO MMORPS (massively multiplayer online roleplaying games — such as EQ2, LOTRO, WOW), though they too are time sinks into which I have sunk far too much of my life, are still streets ahead of telly soaps, because (a) it’s active, not passive (b) it may be virtual but at least you are still interacting with real people* at the other end and (c) you’re not getting brainwashed into believing that the way the actors behave is in any way connected to, or has any relevance to, real life.

      Sorry about the rant. Not sure who I’m trying to persuade. Me, probably :D

      * … at least I think they’re real… ;)


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