Should we not live every day as though it were our last?
We have all got to die, but there are best possible deaths, when our full time has come, and there are deaths, as in the Iraq war and in Israel, when lives are brutally cut short in conditions of great fear, anger and hatred - often leaving behind a legacy of anger, bitterness and sorrow. Because we all have to die is it possible to describe death in the best possible conditions? Is it possible to describe what ought to be our human rights in relation to our deaths? In this section I argue that this is possible. I then go on to compare this with what has happened in Iraq to draw out the contrast hopefully in a clear way.
If we think about our deaths, or those of your loved ones there are things, which I think that we all ideally want to make our passing easier. These are things like: having made a will, an orderly transition of our affairs, reconciliation's and making our peace with people, making sure that vulnerable survivors like children will be looked after (Herbert Hendin)
In the chaos, and rapid moving situation of war none of these things can be guaranteed. Soldiers may tidy their affairs up before they go into battle. For civilians that may occur - but there again, in the sheer random way in which civilians get killed, there is not the predictability or time for many of those things.
Another dimension is the psychological preparation for dying, as the last stage in life journey, as another opportunity for growth and experience. There is now a considerable literature about the psychological preparation for death, which suggests that one's last days, with one's loved ones around one, may be the most beautiful and poignant of one's life, as one becomes aware of how precious and fleeting life is.
Death with ones family cowering against incoming cluster bombs is not like that. There are other things one can say of death that are relevant here.
In Jean Liedloff's book, the Continuum Project, she describes the process of life as stages we all pass through, which if lived properly lead to dying without regrets. As a child one has toys and one plays. There is no problem leaving one's toys behind one, if one has lived that part of one's life properly.
Equally the stage of life for adolescent romance and sexuality and so on. One gets fixated at a stage if one has not lived it properly. The greatest tragedy, for many people in the world, is to be alive but unable to participate in these ordinary satisfactions of living. Finally at death one let's go because one has lived a full life and there are no regrets. (James M. Hoefler)
In that sense the idea of a death cut short in war has particular tragedy, and particularly of children or of the parents of children, which denies the children, the loving and supportive continuity they need, ideally to mature.
Milton D. Heifetz, The Right to Die, (New York: Putnam, 1975)
Derek Humphry & Mary Clement, Freedom to Die: People, Politics, and the Right to Die Movement, (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998)
Herbert Hendin, MD Seduced by Death: Doctors, Patients, and the Dutch Cure, (New York: Norton, 1997)
James M. Hoefler, Managing Death, (Boulder, CO: Westview…