Robin Williams death this week from depression, that may or may not have been sparked by a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, not only made people incredibly sad, it also caused many of us to pause and think about our own “What’s The Point” list.
While people are eager to share their bucket list with everyone and anyone who will listen to their personal life manifesto, most don’t admit in public, much less talk about the fact that they also have a “What’s The Point” list.
I don’t suffer from clinical depression and my outlook on life is mostly positive. Right now, it’s full of hope. I’m having a great time. My health is good. I feel grateful every day that I can physically and mentally do what I do. I am so lucky. And, I have lots to laugh about 99% of the time.
At 63, the majority of my life is behind me. I am very clear of what I want from my remaining years. I have specific criteria of what I want my life to look like. That’s what my “What The Point” list is all about.
It’s a short list. I’ve had it for a long time. My 25- year- old daughter has a list. Her list is short, as well.
Driving back from a wonderful Thai dinner at On’s Kitchen the other night, my daughter Berit and I started talking about Robin Williams and his decision at age 63- the same as me- to end his life.
That led to a discussion of what circumstances would have to exist for either of us to look at our lives and say, “What’s the point?”
Over the years, I have shared my “What’s The Point” list with both my children. I want them to be very clear on my preferences.
At 25, Berit has thought about this issue as well and she has her own very clear criteria. It is different than mine.
For Berit, the most important things in her life are her sight, hearing, and her taste. She says she could handle losing one of the three, but losing two of the three would be a game changer. I made a mental note.
I doubt her list will change much as she grows older. Mine hasn’t changed since I started thinking about it. I do concede that my mental framework for what a worthwhile life is could shift drastically, given any change in my circumstances. My list is not written in stone.
At this point, being of sound mind and body, I lean towards having the freedom to end my life when it no longer meets the basic requirements of my “What’s The Point” list.
Sitting here today, thinking about “What’s The Point,” I know what’s important to me. Mental Acuity is at the top of the list.
As a child, I watched my paternal grandmother sink into the ravages of dementia. It was frightening then and its only gotten more frightening as I’ve gotten older. I remember her holding up a bedspread and thinking it was the newspaper. The 11-year-old me was horrified, mystified, confused and fearful -please don’t let that happen to me.
(As I was writing this, I couldn’t remember the word bedspread and had to go to my good friend Google to jump-start my thinking.)
So if my mind goes, I’d rather my body left with it.
As strongly as I feel about this, I know my own mother, who is suffering from dementia, has a polar opposite viewpoint. As our conversations become limited to, “Boy it’s windy out there today,” I know that she is not a believer in euthanasia, assisted suicide or any unnatural ending to life. For her, it would be completely unconscionable and inconceivable to speed up the death process. She wants to live as long as she can, whether she realizes it or not. Her life. Her choice.
As it turns out, even people who can legally obtain medications to end their lives because of a terminal illness, often choose not to. I think that’s because for most of us, if there is even a single moment of joy, a smile, or something to laugh about, it’s worth the pain.
I used to want to live a long life. Now at 63, longevity isn’t the primary goal. A healthy, intellectually, emotionally and physically engaging life is. I am doing everything in my power to have that life. And, I hope, beyond hope, that my “What’s The Point” list can remain what it is today – an intellectual exercise on the meaning of a quality life.
Dementia. Ruth puzzled over the diagnosis: How could such a beautiful-sounding word apply to such a destructive disease? It was a name befitting a goddess: Dementia, who caused her sister Demeter to forget to turn winter into spring.