The local newspaper ran the first of a three-part series on a woman's deliberate steps to die today. At 90, Lee Hawkins had had enough and so, in consultation with family and others, let go of food and drink. Today's article represented the second time the Daily Hampshire Gazette had taken a space-gobbling approach to Lee Hawkins' death. The first time said she was thinking of trying it. The second time said she succeeded. Lee Hawkins died Sept. 2.
As a former newspaper person, I have to admit my first reaction to today's appreciation was ... irritation. Dying is hardly what you'd call news ... or was it? Would there be any room for news in the news outlets if each person's death were recounted in such caring particulars? It made me wish a more serious approach had been taken.
But it also nudged my somewhat blurry memory banks and brought up two touchstones: 1. At a time when trust was more commonplace in the U.S., the "most trusted man in America," newsman Walter Cronkite, once observed, "News is not about how many cats did not get up on the garage roof." Everyone dies. Since everyone dies -- or 2. as my Zen teacher's teacher put it, "joins the majority"-- it seems a bit much to assess death, per se, as a news-worthy event. This is not to deny the sorrow or other reactions of those left behind, but it is to include death within life ... an inclusion that those left behind too frequently would prefer to sidestep.
Fearing death -- whether by hymn or philosophy or religion or nonchalance -- is fearing life, and fearing life is not to live fully. But not living life fully is nevertheless a full life, I suspect.
It's a strange conundrum, fearing what you might die to preserve.