Lessons on Dying From David Bowie and My Friends by Susan Gubar

After David Bowie released a video about his cancer death, I realized that two members of my support group had been conducting tutorials on dying with me. Their teaching styles differed, as did the content of their courses, but I was privileged to be able to learn from them that there are many ways of dying and no set right way.

Credit Vivienne Flesher

One member of my group, a public presence in our small town because of her articles in the local paper, informed our group that she would not be attending meetings any longer. Having decided that further medical interventions could not extend the quantity of her life without harming its quality, Carrol enrolled in hospice at home.

Once she was set up in a hospital bed with a port and a catheter, I began visiting Carrol, who wanted to hasten her dying not only for herself but for her husband and son as well. Looking remarkably hale, she had stopped eating, though she continued drinking water. With characteristic wit, she posted a blog on the foods she most enjoyed remembering as she began what turned into a lengthy fast.

During one of my visits, Carrol quoted her grandmother’s advice: that we should leave the world a better place than we found it. The sad condition of the world brought to her mind a guy who had once given her the finger as he barreled through an intersection where she had the right of way. Starting to get groggy from pain medication, she focused on me to explain that he had been spreading a ripple of spite which made her want to counter with a ripple of courtesy.

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