In the good old days, death happened before we were ready for it. It struck untimely. Now, it creeps up, perhaps getting to us long after we have timed out.
Which raises the question: when is a timely death?
Journalist Matthew Parris is not alone in contemplating old age with trepidation. In a recent article he asked “How long do you want to live?”
It is a question my generation are the first in modern history to be asking ourselves in very large numbers. We ask it because we are among the first to expect — again in very large numbers — that our lives may be prolonged past a point when we may want or think we ought to live.
We will ask it, too, because we are the first generation among whom a majority no longer believes that suicide is a mortal sin.
I’ve decided to write myself a letter to be opened at the age of 75 and thereafter revisited annually. It sets out my criteria for carrying on. These are the criteria for me alone and I don’t apply them to others, who must frame their own.
To the following eight questions a box is to be ticked, “yes” or “no”. The answer to some may obviate the need to ask some others. If the answer to either of the first two questions is “yes” then brush this letter aside and live on. If the answer to both is “no” then read no further, and reach for the razor blade.
1 Do you still, on balance and taking good times with bad, enjoy being alive?
2 Is there anyone else whose life would be devastated by your death?
The final six questions are not critical, but they may help you to decide in case of doubt:
3 Are you still of any practical use?
4 Are you more or less of sound mind? — in which case who is the prime minister, and multiply two by nine then subtract seven.
5 Are you more or less in possession of your physical faculties?
6 Are you still curious about the world? Can you get on a plane?
7 Behind your back, do people pity you?
8 Can you justify the cost to others, to the NHS and to your country of staying alive?
Full article here.