"Once in A Blue Moon, Orion's Whisper, Gymnopédie No.1" Erik Satie / Taro
Donna, My Nefertiti,
She is made up of depths even the Ocean cannot fathom.
She wears Stars upon her ears,
and clothes herself in a Map of The Heavens.
These are the last thoughts that I will phrase and action. Another irrelevant
‘suicide’. Completely insignificant – like a beautiful abandoned raindrop
on a window sill.
I am sending all of you you this letter individually. It is not a suicide letter. I am aware that it might be an uncomfortable and unsettling piece of notification. I make no apology for that and I am not sorry if my end of life choices make you confront your own. I might be the mirror you most hate to look into. Giving myself permission to die should not amount to any guilt on your part.
There is nothing you could have said or done to change my mind or my perspective. ‘Survivors guilt’, the shame and blame that compels yourselves to believe you could have done more, said more, been more, been more than more, and better than more. Nobody has ‘failed’ me. Nobody is in inadequate. You are all quite fine.
You are welcome to send it to anyone whom you think might find this thought
provoking, possibly even beneficial. It is not meant to change your worldview.
I offer it as an attempt to try to understand mine. It may spark a mature
conversation around the complexities of suicides, it's methods, characteristics,
triggers, types, genres, reasons and phenomena.
What I am most interested in is where rational suicides take off from where impulsive suicides begin. I am of the school of thought that believes /knows - that engaging in this in an adult manner does not glorify/normalise/romanticise/sanitise/trivialise/ ‘suicide’. It is like any taboo topic – swept under the carpet until tragedy strikes. If death and especially death by suicide is not addressed, it makes for a litany of consequences.
In a health culture, death is seen as a failure: and discussing it seems
to be admitting that. Suicide of course is thus the ultimate failure.
I have thought very carefully if sharing my last thoughts and insight is the wise and responsible thing to do. Yes it is. If I do not, then I am guilty of sweeping it under the carpet.
Some of you would like to know my final thoughts, because you have invested
and immersed yourself deeply into these, the subject at hand and many other
matters of the soul and mind for years now.
Some of you have stood with me until the end, and I have become aware that some are experiencing some sort of last minute spiritual or emotional stress/angst on my behalf – which is of course your own. I cannot comfort you without compromising the wisdom of my decision.
The gist of this letter is rational suicide, rational choice, my choice. It is morally fraught one. Most doctors and psychiatrists are of the opinion that anyone who dies by suicide has a mental illness. I therefore have to mention my mental health status because I face more prejudice than those who choose this path who do not have, as yet, such ‘issues’ and obstacles.
It has never defined me nor has it had a stranglehold on me. I stand defiant against the idea that because I have mental health ‘issues’ I am not mentally fit enough nor have the capacity to make the most important decision of my life. The draconian idea that anyone who entertains the mere thought of euthanasia, assisted death or any means of self-deliverance should be referred to a mental health specialist is a lot of crap.
I stopped allowing myself to hide behind, and be abused by others (no matter how well meaning) on the basis that I have a ‘mental illness’ a long time ago. Obviously, and annoyingly, I will have to write a compelling suicide note stating exactly this – irrational, bipolar, unstable, parents ‘suicide’ choices, "love affair" with psychiatrists for 3 decades, etc etc. Not difficult just truthful.
I am not the first canary down the mineshaft. Many have preceded me and many others will follow this route. They are not labelled ‘mentally ill’ (although if they were not successful in their attempt they would be whisked off to the psyche ward, be allotted a disorder as the main cause, and the dessert would inevitably be an anti-psychotic cocktail of interesting substances).
Many of my psychiatrists have worn me out, falling prey to the idea that
psychiatry and suicide prevention have a holy alliance, and thus must be
protected by any means whatsoever; no matter the human, financial, and
mental cost; the very thing they like to think they can assuage and ‘heal’.
It seems to me that most schools of thought in modern psychiatry have hijacked
all and any suicides as its exclusive domain.
Suicide is mostly very complex and psychiatry and clinical psychology are forever evolving in their understanding of this– like scientists with their stars. Most of my shrinks/therapists have however brought me great joy, fulfilment and balance, and it was an absolute pleasure to deal with them in the offices of ‘objectivity’. Much better than a foot massage, a facial or a prayer-.
Words like: selfish/coward/weak/weak-willed/ broken spirit/broken/easy
way out/suicide is not an option/only way out/depressed/given up on life/given
in/desperate/ get out of jail free card/cop out/free pass/ suicide is not
an option/escape/loser/lost all hope (pick one, tick all). These are controlling,
ignorant, biased and abusive.
Self-deliverance defies any of this. I am exercising my right to die, my choice, my sacred decision.
I am not ‘committing suicide’ or ‘taking my (own) life’. I am not ’murdering’
or ‘harming’ myself. I am not ‘destroying’ myself.
I am dying - now - by choice.
I am exercising the right that comes with that choice. This is not a choice that some might think demands urgent medical or frantic spiritual intervention. That offends me.
Actually, it outrages me. It is about end-of-life choices. Conscious choices.
As in life we make conscious choices, we can do so too with our death.
I am not spiritually challenged, mentally unstable or emotionally unbalanced.
I am not having an existential crisis of any kind nor am I vacillating between hope and despair.
I have neither capitulated, abdicated and most certainly have not succumbed or been defeated.
Where is the choice in that?
It is widely accepted that most suicides are ‘learned behaviour’. The learned doctors are right about this in some cases. In my case, not so.
I have thought extra carefully if I should share the next bit of information
in the interest of pursuing two points:
1.Two personal examples that the only choice determined rational people have is a grizzly and gruesome one.
2.There are far more people in the mental, medical, legal, clerical and philosophical fields that silently endorse rational suicide with all its complexities than we realise.
She gassed herself. l want to stop this nonsense I hear all the time ----
that people who choose death by gas by car want to live, indications being
desperate scratch marks on the door handles, loss of consciousness and
their survival instinct kicks in . Yes, that is true of most cases. Not
this one. There were no signs of struggle, no dramatic claw marks.
Her car was not locked.
This was an act of determination, not desperation. These were very important facts for the cops. It was not a nice way to go.
I AM GOING TO SAY THIS AGAIN AND AGAIN... This was an act of Determination. It was NOT an act of desperation.
It was so with my dad and it is now with me. It is so with thousands of others.
My father was a very disciplined man. He was Soldier. He suffered from
chronic diabetes but looked after himself well. He was an early riser with
a disciplined routine. Up at 6am, shower, and take the dog for a walk and
then breakfast. This particular morning, irrespective that it was New Year’s
Day, for some unknown peculiar reason he rose later than usual. He could
not find my mother.
He did think it odd that she would go anywhere without a note. Especially since, it was 1st of January. He got suspicious and went into the garage. She was still alive. His first instinct was not to call the paramedics but to sit with her until she died. She was far gone by now and if there was medical intervention she would be a vegetable.
This is something none of us wants and is a very important thing to consider if you do really want to terminate. He would also be going against her expressed wishes and acting against the very thing that made them take this decision 40 years prior.
He sat with her for the day, the night and the next morning. When he had composed himself, he phoned the police station.
A young cop arrived. He listened to my dad’s story and he said : ‘Mr Vos,
please do not tell the detectives you found her alive and didn’t call the
paramedics. They will be here in a short while. Let the autopsy determine
her time of death.’
It is extremely unusual for a cop, especially a conservative one – no matter his personal views to find such compassion overriding the protocol his job dictates.
After my mom died, I moved back to Cape Town. Amongst many things I was a spiritual advisor (what is that?). One of my clients was a cop. Most cops burn out at about 40. He was reaching that point. I asked him why he needed my advice. It was about a suicide he could not really come to terms with.
I know that suicides are particularly hard for cops to deal with – for a myriad of reasons. He told me of a woman who had gassed herself but was not yet dead and the extraordinary love from a husband to his wife, respecting her end of life choices, despite that he could have been held straight away for murder.
This is what disturbed his ethical plateau. At what stage does or can compassion override a law he swore to uphold. He was talking about my parents. We became friends.
Three years after my mother exited my father would exit. He shot himself.
After careful planning for four months – I stress again – to ensure you die properly and responsibly takes a certain amount of planning. This is not only the method, time and place but also financial and practical matters that must be attended to so that there are no loose ends for loved ones to tie up. And believe me now that I am at this point I never realised there are so many ‘loose’ ends to tie up.
He exited at 04.20 at a police station. He was very considerate.
My cop friend was on duty and was the first responder.
I worked with a particular shrink for many many years. During that time,
my father was planning his exit. It never occurred to me that I might be
jeopardising his plans (based on patient/doctor confidentiality) by giving
this information to this person or that it might ethically compromise my
good doctor. This person was not ethically paralysed. This person knew
very well that any forced psychiatric intervention on a rational man would
simply delay his departure. (This person no longer resides in SA and has
moved to a country where assisted dying is legal).
One of my more recent encounters with a mental health specialist, upon understanding my pragmatic approach to my end of life decision, said it quite bluntly:
‘Donna you must decide to fight or terminate.’
Boom! There you are.
No frills. Just this person and me.
This person’s support would of course not be a public one. For me however, it was good enough.
I think it is enough now and I hope you understand that the only options available to rational and determined people are gruesome and grisly ones, bar a few enlightened countries. I also hope that you realise that there are far more people in the medical and legal field that understand our decision.
I have therefore made my decision. And it has not been a difficult decision
It is based on sound mind with no cognitive decline; I am present. I believe I have enough insight into my life to make this decision. I am rational, conscious, conscientiousness, responsible, discerning, and my thinking is settled. It is well thought through and weighed up.
My judgment is not in any way impaired. I am well informed and my chosen time and way of death is well considered. It has been a consistent decision for a long time.
I have transcended ‘fear’ (what kak is that? – ‘man made’ impositions on my psyche), and freed myself from any judgment imposed upon me by any philosophy, ideology, theology, relative morality or medical analyses.
I am not governed by anyone else’s rules nor do I ascribe to any. My moral
compass is now no more than indulgences.
I have taken ‘one for the team’ my whole life, but this is now my sole and sacred decision and I am responsible to no one else but myself.
Nor are you responsible for me.
I do not wonder why some people have this extraordinary need, an urge,
almost a compulsion, even an addiction, no matter how sincere, righteous,
subtle enough to confuse even themselves, to inflict their ideas of life,
the law and the idea of an afterlife on me.
This is the foundation on which such people have fortified, sculpted, built and painted their beings, so easily threatened by someone like me.
There is no greater, sterner, fairer judge than me. I have judged myself.
I have liberated myself from any interpretation and limitations I may have
imposed upon myself or allowed you to impose on me, due to my own ignorance,
insecurities and need of rigid structure to guide me, no matter how subtle
I have had to get out of the boxing ring with ‘God’. When last I checked God was also not there. The referees - be that psychiatrists, priests, confidantes, teachers, caring friends, good Samaritans – were retrenched.
I understand that it is difficult for many of you to make peace with my choice because I am not yet chronically/hopelessly/terminally ill, nor am I ‘old’.
These two criteria seem to make it more acceptable and palatable when it comes to exercising the right to die.
You must leave your fears and your judgment at the foot of my altar. Should
you be sad, there is an anointing bowl.
Leave your tears there. Should you feel pity for me, you are unwelcome in my temple.
All death is sad. I think this sadness is only a mask, which we hide behind because of our own fear, grief, needs, prejudices, projections, paranoias, inability and unwillingness to face our mortality. For the most part anyway.
Thus, our own need to control others who defy these ideas.
Some may paint my decision and choice as tragic. That does not phase me. I know better.
The Little Mermaid that Donna Darkwolf left for me, when she travelled
Gift wrapped for me to open on Our Anniversary.
My ‘love affair’ with self-deliverance began when my folks read me fairy
tales – as any good parent should (although these days I do not know what
a parent is supposed to do with all this social media business). Hans Christian
Andersons (HKA) ‘the little mermaid’ affected me profoundly.
I am not sharing this story with you as a meditation on suicide, or even as an alchemy, but rather for the many complex psycho-spiritual truths, it holds.
The ending of the story is what disturbs most people and Disney conveniently pillaged it. Life is of course not a fairy tale. The ‘they lived happily ever after’ is myth’. It is ‘they lived’. For those of you who have never read the original story in the context it is meant to be read in, I encourage you to do so. It has been impossible for me to read that story, repeatedly without crying.
Only recently did I give away my last, and original copy of the story – to a little girl who may never comprehend it in the way I do.
That may be a good thing, I do not know.
Years later, she would have to go to a ‘home.’ Such a nice euphemistic
phrase isn’t that. A ‘home’. It was a relatively upmarket home and at first,
she went to a bedsitter. I decorated it myself with a friend. Lovely we
thought. All her ‘things’ are here.
Overnight she had developed a fear of heights, lost all ability to understand pushing buttons in an elevator. (We can all understand why – I hope). Sadly, she was taken into frail care despite that she did not yet need it. She was to share with another elderly woman.
This person assaulted my gran. Granny was moved to another room where this room-mate tormented her stealing her things.
Sounds trivial maybe? It was not to her, nor to me.
My gran was a peaceful person. Not a bone of aggression in her mind or in her in her body. She was placed in a general ward – the logic being she would be safer.
Shortly after this new arrangement, I received a terrifying phone call. Granny had been badly assaulted by a night nurse, whilst sleeping. This obviously became a big thing. It was dealt with swiftly and efficiently. I considered putting her in a new home. I sought counsel and was advised that this would not solve the problem.
Firstly, it would be too far from my house, which would limit my ability
to act immediately.
Secondly, elderly abuse is not specific to certain ‘homes’. Thirdly, granny would have to learn a whole new routine which was deemed detrimental to her.
Lastly, because of all her traumatic experiences, it was necessary that personal preventative measures be implemented.The Little Mermaid is willing to give up her life in the sea and her identity as a Mermaid to gain a human soul – so she could be with the prince she had fallen in love with. She visited the sea witch who told her that in exchange for her legs, the little mermaid would have to give her her tongue and the Little Mermaid would never sing again.
Every step she walked would be as needles sticking into her dainty feet – and her earthly gift would be that of dance. The most important of all these conditions was that she would lose her human soul if the prince married another. The Little Mermaid accepted these conditions.
The prince adored her. However, he could not marry her. He had fallen in love with the ‘temple maiden’ that found him unconscious on the shore – where the little mermaid had dragged him to safety after nearly drowning and hid behind a rock to see him to safety. The wedding preparations began.
Her sister mermaids were so distraught for the Little Mermaid's distress
and fate they too visited the sea witch. In exchange for their beautiful
long hair, she would give them a knife to give the little mermaid with
which to kill the sleeping prince, thereby regaining her voice, her tail,
and the ability to live the 300-year lifespan of a mermaid – without a
human soul – and become Foam on the Sea.
The little mermaid took the knife and plunged it into her own heart. (In certain, incorrect versions she threw the knife into the sea, jumped overboard, and drowned.) She would not kill the one she loved.
She did not care if she became Foam on the Sea or if she were no longer to gain a human soul. She became Foam on the Sea.
All ego gone.
The Foam on The Sea ending was not favoured when HKA wrote it. It was considered to ‘dark’ for kids and so society decided to invalidate the Zen of the Foam on The Sea. Foam on the sea was apparently bleak and tragic. It attempted the portrayal that only human souls go to ‘heaven’.
Thus the Little Mermaid was granted a human soul by ‘air spirits’ for her noble deed in sacrificing herself.
This ideology of heavenly realms minimised a spirituality unknown and feared.
It is still the same today.
I entered into an uneasy relationship with Foam on the Sea and theological
choices. These two would soon clash and I would give in to ideology and
turn a cause into a crusade. ‘Foam on the sea’ became structured and regulated.
Existential questions of God and the universe became one of judgement,
always with punitive consequences, the relative rights and wrongs of a
myriad of religions, philosophies and bohemian spirituality’s.
And of course the rights and wrongs of ‘man’ made law. The means to now control a four year olds mind and thought processes had begun. It took many years and a few breakdowns along the way to rectify this. I am now free of all of this. I have once again found ‘God’ – Zen to be in, and of, The Foam.
I am The Foam.
I stopped paying attention to anyone or anything that tells me it is a
virtue to suffer, endure pain, humiliation, terrible sadness that can be
controlled, persecution, and ordeal, relentless loss that does come with
age, in order to die and be free.
Martyrdom was my thing for a while, but it lost its appeal when I realised it scores no brownie points in a different worldview. I see no heroism, nobility or honour in fighting with death to live when it is your time. I have no need to squeeze the last ounce of life out of me. For me it is utterly incomprehensible that one, in an extreme state of dereliction (money and privilege are irrelevant) would want to continue living like this. I do not intend to get there.
These fights, to my mind are simply the fearful - no matter how educated and enlightened these folk think they may be – clinging to the only thing they know – this life, this existence – despite the many who trumpet and offer afterlife beliefs and theories. The fear of death is only a concern of the living.
NEXT >> Foam on The Sea - Part 2