Those big, brown eyes look up at me expectantly. Mommy
It brings me reeling back to reality. Oh my God! How can I even think about suicide? How dare I be so selfish?
That was twelve years ago. Chad was barely two years old.
Funnily enough, initially I hadn’t even considered killing myself after an accident left me paralyzed from the neck down. I think I was still very much in denial – believing (naïvely) that my paralysis was only temporary.
About a month after I got out of the hospital we had some friends over. Someone expressed concern at our swimming pool not being secure. My husband and I had discussed childproofing it that very same week. Although it was a long way from the house and Chad was not really mobile yet, I knew that if there was no one else around to help he would literally drown before my eyes if he fell into the pool. Scary!
But, this friend’s concern was not for Chad.
He managed to draw my husband away from the group and, in a hushed tone, warned him of the possibility that I may consider driving my wheelchair into the pool and drown myself. Hey, I can still hear you. Stop saying those things!
I was hurt. I was angry. I was scared. I was shocked. How dare he assume that I would ever consider doing something so selfish!
The harsh reality of my circumstances and the attitudes of society in general became more apparent by the response of the people around me with each passing day. Their reactions proved that I was different now – no longer really accepted and perceived as an inferior being. Suddenly I was exposed to hurtful comments, derogatory remarks, ignorant assumptions and infantile treatment. For the first time in my life, I was forced to deal with rejection, shame and pity. It hurt like hell.
My life began spinning out of control. My husband wanted out of the marriage and he was taking our son. I didn’t have the physical and emotional strength – or the financial means – to fight him it all.
That was when I started contemplating suicide for the first time. The realization that I couldn’t kill myself, without help, frustrated and horrified me. All I wanted to do was to die!
I spent many hours thinking about ways to do it.
I looked despairingly at our pool. Too late! It had already been fenced in and the gate was permanently locked.
I would go up to the stables where there was a beautiful view over the farm with the N4 highway in the distance. Oh, how I wish I could just get there. All it would take is one truck or speeding car – surely?
My desperate obsession with dying didn’t allow me to even consider the consequences to others and most especially our son.
I begged my husband to hire a hit-man. Come on, it would be an easy way out – for both of us. It would be an easy, clean, quick job for some low-life willing to make an extra buck. Sigh. I think I have read far too many crime novels or watched too many movies.
Oh God, please help! Take me! Send somebody to help! I wish I could disguise myself as an animal. I need a vet. Now!
Voluntary euthanasia. Assisted suicide. Dying with help dignity. Call it what you like!
The case for assisted suicide is a powerful one – appealing to our human, and often innate, capacity for compassion. Some feel strongly that we have an obligation to support individual choice and self-determination. But, the case against assisted suicide is also significant – for it speaks to us of a fundamental admiration of life itself. Many are acutely aware of the risk and dire consequences of the diminished respect of the living.
I don’t stand sit in judgment of anybody. This is my story.
If euthanasia was legal in my country, I know, without a doubt, that I would have done everything in my power to fight for my right to die – ten years ago – maybe even five years ago. I’m ashamed to say.
Sometime ago I came across a story of a quadriplegic choosing to starve himself to death. He obtained a court order, against the nursing home he was living in, to respect his right to die and they were instructed to inform him of the consequences of his decision, then to remove all feeding tubes. There was a time when I believed (naïvely) that I could do the same if I really wanted to. Despite being shit-scared of dying a slow, agonizing death, I bragged about it. I am in control. I can choose to live or die – just like everybody else.
Maybe it was more the sense of power I was after? Perhaps, it was just me being manipulative?
Selfishly, I didn’t give any thought or consideration to the feelings of my loved ones or care assistants. Neither did I take the time to reflect on the moral dilemma my doctors would have to face. Quite frankly, I was so engrossed in my own misery that I didn’t really care much for anybody else – except Chad.
Somehow, without him even being aware of it, Chad was my lifeline. Just his mere presence had the ability to bring me up out of the deepest chasm of loneliness and despair. Thank God for my powerful maternal instinct.
Some time back I was in contact with a family whose adult son had broken his neck by diving into the murky waters of a dam. Sadly, he misjudged its depth and was left in a similar physical state as me. I mistakenly thought that I could offer some sort of emotional support and naïvely believed that I could give them a sense of hope for the his future. But, regrettably he succumbed to his depression and he ended his life by driving his battery-powered, chin-controlled wheelchair off a dam wall and drowned.
I was devastated. I took his suicide personally. I felt as if I had failed – again. You are bloody useless Tracy!
I found out later that some of his family was aware of his intentions. Apparently, they had seen him sitting on the dam wall, a little way from their farmhouse, minutes before. When they noticed that he was gone, somebody ran. It was too late.
I was angry with him. Why did you give up so easily? If I can live a life of hell on earth, so can you!
But, I admired his courage and felt shame at my lack of it. You had the ingenious plan and the guts to go through with it!
I was enraged with his family. How on earth could you allow him to kill himself? Don’t you care?
I was confused and scared. Did my family also wish for me to be dead?
I became insecure – again. Am I too much of a burden to my family, friends and society?
Some months later his family ended up at the same party I was at. There were many people confined within the walls of the entertainment area, making it difficult to get around, even for able-bodied people. But, they even avoided making eye contact with me from across the room. I was hoping to talk to them to express my sympathy and condolences but they made no effort to get to me and it was (near) impossible for me to get to them.
Their discomfort was obvious. It made me sad. Do they feel guilt – hmmm I wonder? I hope that they may find the strength and courage to go on – without their son and brother. But, more importantly, I pray that they may find the peace of mind that they deserve.
Somehow, by the grace of God and with the love, care and support of my family, friends and community I have successfully managed to rebuild a new, meaningful life in a new body.
Recently I found this comment on Twitter. Why would a quadriplegic want to live?
I responded. Why not?
There was a time in my life when I honestly believed that I had no quality of life left. I know that this may come as a surprise to many able-bodied people out there. But, strangely, time gives a whole new perspective. I have a deep-seated reverence of life. Ask me now – do you wanna die? No! An emphatic no! No! No! Not now!
But, when the time comes, and I am in need, it gives me great comfort knowing that there are organizations like Hospice out there with dedicated Earth Angels who will hopefully give me the privilege of dying with dignity one day.
Are you brave enough to share your opinions or comments on this subject? I would love to hear them.