We have all listened over the past few months to the debate and decision around the inclusion in the new Wellington hospice of a space for MAID (medical assistance in dying), a medically and politically approved end of life service available to those who choose it.
In his mid-70s, my father died of Parkinson’s with an assist from my grandfather’s pistol. He had struggled for eight years with the disease, which has effects that vary from person to person.
My mother, a strong woman but of slight build, tended his steady decline – and it began to become hers. Placed on a waiting list, a care home had been tried. He anguished, behaved badly and did not wish to die separated from her.
With his own decision made, my mother told me that a “cloud” seemed to lift. For his last few days, sitting on the edge of the bed, they were able to recall their youthful and loving days together.
In 1990 his wife could not be seen to have assisted his passing in any way. He would need to be brave enough to achieve it by himself. Alone, dressed, placed at his home office desk, loaded weapon at hand. My mother, deeply shaken, left the home to meet the requirements of being absent. On her return, a nephew and a neighbour were supportive while police were notified.
My father did not die in fear. He died in “hope,” which is as remarkable as faith.
A favourite book of his by Charles Dickens contained the lines “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”