Dad of 3 Daughters Reveals He WANTS to Die Too Young

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You know that song by The Who that goes, "Hope I die before I get old ..."? No? That's probably because you're not old. But you probably get the sentiment, anyway. Most of us don't want to die young. But we're not too excited about growing old, either. In fact, one man just wrote about why he hopes he'll die at a younger age -- seriously.

The writer, Ezekiel Emanuel, is an expert in medical ethics, so you'd better believe he's given this a lot of thought. He's also the father of three daughters. Going by his photo, he looks like a happy, well-adjusted guy. Heck, he just climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with his nephews. So what's his hurry?

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Emanuel admits his target death age drives his daughters crazy. He acknowledges that death robs your loved ones of time with you. But here's his rationalization:

But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

Emanuel's magic death age? It's 75.

Okay, that's not SO young. But it's one of those uncomfortable truths we all hate talking about. We want our loved ones to stay with us as long as possible. But aging can be so ... awful! Sure, doctors can extend our lives longer than ever. But should we really keep trying if that means more time spent in pain, dealing with health problems, and losing your memory?

"It is true that compared with their counterparts 50 years ago, seniors today are less disabled and more mobile," Emanuel says. "But over recent decades, increases in longevity seem to have been accompanied by increases in disability—not decreases." He mentions his own father as an example. But then he casually mentions that his father says he's happy. So ... what do we make of THAT?

Like many of you, I'm watching the prolonged process of dying in my own family. My maternal grandmother is 96 years old. Grandma is one tough broad. She's been living independently in her own house up until a few months ago, when she started staying at a neighbor's place on weeknights.

I'm amazed at her strength and vitality. When I visited her last year for her 95th birthday party, she was feisty as ever, arguing politics with her best friend. She has a life force that just won't quit.

But she's also in pain. She's been suffering a long list of health problems for years, and the list gets longer as time goes on. And for the first time, ever, she's started showing signs of mental decline. When I spoke with her on the phone recently, she seemed fuzzy and had trouble remembering my son's name. My sister noticed the same thing when they last talked. It scared us.

Physical pain is one thing. But losing your mental capacities as well? Your ability to connect meaningfully with your loved ones? Truly terrifying.

As far as I'm concerned, my grandma is not allowed to die. EVER. But does she want to still be alive, I wonder? Does she have days when she thinks, Enough already!

I hate the idea of living for decades in ill health and discomfort. And don't even get me started on the financial quandary of old age. My grandmother is fortunate to have a pension from her former employer. What can I expect from retirement savings? From Social Security? How do you plan for a retirement that could last 30 years?

But then I think about what elderly people live for -- their family. If you live well, people will become attached to you. There will be people who love you, who don't want you to leave early. Is it then selfish to wish for death at 75? Or are we the selfish ones, wanting our loved ones to live forever, no matter how well they feel?

Emanuel stands by his wish -- for now. But he ends by adding he has the right to change his mind and offer a defense of living as long as possible. "That, after all," he concludes, "would mean still being creative after 75."

If you had the choice, how old would you be when you die?

 

Image © iStock.com/Acerebel

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