Many years ago - even decades - when I was still quite young, I knew how I want to die. It hasn't changed and it isn't unique: I want to be conscious, clear-headed and pain-free so that I can concentrate, pay attention to the experience. We only get one go at death and I want to be aware of it.
Of course, there is no guarantee it will work out that way but there is a better chance than in the recent past. Many doctors are more honest than in our parents' and grandparents' day about prognoses, for example, and there are documents we can sign nowadays that direct how much medical and drug intervention we want at the end.
That is a help but all kinds of things can go wrong, or differently from what is anticipated in the documents, starting with an uncooperative body or mind.
Recently, I've been learning more about palliative care which is usually chosen at end of life but not always. There are uses for patients at other stages of life too. And, I had no idea until now that palliative care is a medical specialty.
As I was working my way through a variety of resources I arrived at an excellent, informative and fascinating TEDtalk from March 2015. The speaker is BJ Miller, a palliative care physician who works at the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco.
As young as he is (well, as young he appears to me at my age 74), he is wise and thoughtful and filled with insight about healthcare which, he says, should “make life more wonderful than [just] less horrible” as it too often does, especially in hospitals.
It's hard to know if it is due to the traumatic injury he suffered while in college or if Dr. Miller was born an old soul but there are few others I know of who are as inspiring and comforting about death and dying – and living - as this man. (The video is about 20 minutes long.)