Sunday, February 14, 2016

Antonin Scalia Dies a Good Death

A few years ago the guys I play basketball with were all talking about a news story they noticed, about a man who dropped dead on the basketball court at the age of 84. That, they agreed, was the way to go: suddenly, while you still have the strength to do the things you love.

What Americans seem to fear is not death so much as a long, terrifying decline. With AIDS under control the most feared malady in our age is probably Alzheimer's. What people want is to live as long as possible as themselves, smart and free, and then slide quickly into oblivion. What they fear is dementia, hospitalization, a life stage when they become drooling creatures kept alive by tubes and machines.

Antonin Scalia died in the way, I think, most Americans want to die. He lived a long life, but he didn't hang around for the decline. During the last court term he was as sharp as ever, his questions still pointed and witty. He died in beautiful surroundings at a resort ranch, surrounded by friends. No humiliating hospitalizations, no embarrassing decline, no painful losses of memory, just a long, vigorous life marked by service to ideals he believed in, and then the rapid slide into darkness and whatever lies beyond.

1 comment:

Susi said...

Here, in the rural heart of VA, most of my buddies (men) say that they will choose their own time of death, if at all possible. Many have already done it. My Uncle, under Hospice care had his carefully hoarded stash taken from him by them and died an excruciating death. We are all owners of our bodies and, in my opinion, should be allowed to choose our time of death. Hemingway had it right. It's not death we fear, it's that messy part at the end.