Photo of a cemetry, gravestones epitaphs over a green field

How do YOU want to die?

Thoughts on dying and living, in the wake of Robin Williams.

Robin Williams died. Preliminary investigations show that he died of asphyxiation. Then, the investigator told in his report, what the scene was when they arrived. He was sitting in a chair, dressed up. He did not die by hanging, which ruptures the Medulla Oblongata - a small brain which controls most involuntary action. With it gone, the bodily functions of breath, heartbeat, flow, everything goes away, and body is temporarily in pain; it must be, that’s what TV shows - people shiver for a while and then, go limp.

But, people tell me that if a head is suddenly severed from the body, even then the body shivers, without its head even though pain is only in the head, it is the only thing which reacts to stimulus with reactions like pain. So, with that part gone, it seems absurd that the rest of the body be feeling anything, feeling pain. And yet, it shivers for a while, as if the brain had sent out brain waves, as a last goodbye. In that case, sudden severing of an unprepared mind must not accompany shivering. I don’t know. One man, while explaining why we must remove any rings from our fingers while playing volley ball showed us his hand, with a missing index finger. He said that while he was taking a shot on the net, it somehow got stuck on the pillar, and the rest of his body was detached from it. And he told - since in the heat of action, pain doesn't rise too soon - that he saw his finger limp around for a while. Maybe each part somehow knows when its controller is gone. I can’t tell.

But Robin did it differently. You know how it appears that he did it? He tied the belt around his throat, and the other end to the closed door of a closet, firmly. It is like my mother told us to do to our milk-tooth, which we could not pull out with our own hands. Tie one end of the thread to the tooth, the other to the stump of a bed, or something like a handle of the closed closet, firmly, and then, in one swift motion, jerk away. Physics will help you. You won’t know if you never read science, or cannot see it in action, but it is Newton’s first law. The inertia of the tooth wants it to stay, and yet, your body is pulling away and in those split seconds, there is so much force that your tooth is severed, and detached from you. It is momentarily painful, and followed by many weeks of the tongue revisiting the place, searching for a lost companion. It is funny that it never inquired before the way it does now. Or maybe it did, but only in the absence is its action more visible, noticeable. We too, mourn the dead.

That’s what he did, to his wind pipe. He did not bother to shut down any other function, no hurting the Medulla Oblongata directly, it had been infected with ‘depression’ like some resident virus infects the boot sector of our computers. Perhaps, it was his revenge, to make it watch, helplessly so, as he took his life away from its clutches, and from his’ too. It must have been painful. Ever been held by your throat? Known how painful it is to try shoving a finger in the small cavity just below the Adam’s apple? Yes? You know what I mean then. That’s what was severed, when he had jerked away. Asphyxiation ensued, along with the pain.

I wonder what he might have felt. You know, you cling on to life when you love it. When you are determined to die, you just want to ‘get over it’. He could have chosen something more quick, or something easier, like an overdose. I don’t know what he must have been thinking. Most of the time I cannot know myself either. I’m just hastily judgmental, as most of us are, except those who know that they know better.

I have often wondered how I want to die. No matter how much we might dislike it, we've got to die somehow, some day. Sometimes, I wished that I die in my sleep, so that I didn't have to go through the pain of seeing my life go away with my eyes open and in consciousness. I did not want to die in any accident. I did not want to die of any heart attacks either. No, I want my body to function perfectly until the end, and then, abruptly, it must stop. That was what I wanted. Then, somehow, I got comfortable with this idea of dying. It’s not that I’d like to die, but then, I have troubles with things that don’t reach a closure. So, this sudden severing away of life would be deeply unsatisfactorily. I want to see life, till its end and then say goodbye in a decent manner.

Who knows what is on the other side. But there is always problem at the fringes. Imagine, that the souls are born when we die. Imagine that they don’t enter us just like that when a new life-form is born, but one soul dies on that other side, when it enters this side. Think of the pain that a mother has to bear in labor, maybe we’re giving birth to a soul. This completes a cycle, but there is always trouble at the fringes, we feel pain. If we have to undergo pain while crossing over, maybe the souls too are afraid of dying, before we start to live.

Nobody can tell you for sure what they feel when they’re dying. We feel pain seeing them die, but maybe, just maybe, dying for them is not painful at all, or it is just as painful as getting a knee bruise on falling down; manageable, right? Who knows, if one goes to the final door, and yet, returns — maybe he never reached the very end after all. Besides, there could be a side-effect of returning back from there, into this very life: We — as most of the people who return from great depths find — would find the life to be very, very beautiful. It might become too dear that we would want to escape death. We would want to stay away from that boundary, and yet, we would have to visit it once again. Dying isn't child-play.

So, what do I want? I want that I have to die only once, not before that, not after that ever, ever again. It kind of made me befriend death, whom I want to see only once, and embrace him snugly. Suddenly, the fear of death isn't a fear anymore, but only when I think about it. The answer to ‘What if I have to die?’, now is, ‘Then, I die.’

Some people say that in suicide, people try to glorify their death. When they read this piece, they might allege that I too, am glorifying the act. I am merely taking a guess, at what it is to be dead and I somehow find it beautiful, as life is. I don’t want anyone to change their perceptions for such people, but I want to ask them the same question, ‘How would you want to die, and if not in one particular way, then why?’. I’m not glorifying the act, or taking a side. No. I am dignifying the act of dying, for we owe at least as much dignity to a dead man than to his living self, if not more. There is no loss of dignity in dying.

Nobody must have to do it more than once.

P.S.: ...Nothing.