If you could know the exact time, date and cause of your death — would you want to know or not?

31 Comments

  1. I’d rather not know. Why? Because if I knew, and it was some time in the near future, I’d be devastated… or maybe I’d quit my job and make the most of my remaining days! If it was awhile from now, I might just kinda drudge along knowing that I’d still be around anyway – I’d probably end up procrastinating more…

  2. My only wish is I don’t want to be a second “Terri Schiavo”, so if I am ever in a “vegetable state” – I don’t want to live any more. Not a single second.
    On a second thought, if I come to know my “last day” may be I will do something that I badly wanted to do for someone very close – I want to fulfill that wish.

  3. Dave!
    You have not watched many episodes of “The Twilight Zone” or “Gilligan’s Island” or recently read “The Gift of the Magi” have you?
    😀
    You cannot change history or your fate and everything you would try to do would do to avoid your fate would lead to even greater disasters and death of innocent others and, if you kept rebelling, you would be knocked out by a coconut and put in a coma for a couple of weeks to get you on that plane to meet your rightful end!
    I’m surprised you wouldn’t use the next 10 years to pack 100 years of living into the frame of your life. Isn’t there a certain comfort in knowing when the end will take you?
    Do you think critically terminally ill people know the cause of their death? Can they pretty well anticipate the day and time of their death?
    If you are stricken with a deadly disease, is it improper for your doctor to tell you to get your things in order and make plans for your death? What’s the difference between that and what I’m asking you today?

  4. David,
    Sometimes it’s the small things we don’t even realize…
    I didn’t mean that I would wait till the day I die to fulfill my wish but it might be something very momentary and small, I am not talking about buying a jet for my close ones – I am talking about cooking a meal – last meal to be precise – may be it will add a little more taste just because it would be my last cooking… 😀
    I don’t want to know whether I will be in a “vegetable state” tomorrow, but the point is – in case I am – I don’t want to live a single day extra. I will ask for euthanasia. In fact, my last wish says so. Knowing or not knowing the date won’t change my decision.

  5. Dave —
    Yes, you have the choice of knowing or not — but you can’t change the details of the knowing!
    😀
    I have heard of people who, when told they will soon die, charge up $25,000 worth of credit cards that are in their own name alone. They “own” nothing but the cards. They live high. They give lots of gifts. They make payments on the $25,000 for four months and then they die and the credit card companies are left to cover the balance because the deceased left no means to pay and nothing of value left behind to collect and sell.

  6. Knowing how and when one would die… interesting but I’d have to pass. Look what it did for King Laius and his son Oedipus. Fearing the end may be the cause of my doom.

  7. For those that are unfamilar with the story, please see link for shortened version of the Oedipus Myth. Basically King Laius set the prophesy that his son would kill him and marry his wife Queen Jocasta in motion when he sent his son to die. Oedipus, adopted and raised by other royals who did not tell him that he was adopted, hears that he will kill his father and marry his mother. To avoid this terrible fate he runs to his kingdom of origin and fulfills the prophesy.

  8. I’m not sure if I would want to know that either. I don’t know if the knowledge thereof would make me go vegan or eat more of what I might become. I’d rather remain blissfully ignorant of that matter. Although with the possible threat of a nuclear holocaust, turning into a cockroach doesn’t sound so bad.

  9. I guess that depends on how you’ve lived. In most cultures that believe in reincarnation, it seems to be linked to Dharma.
    Right now, I’m more interested in the journey of life than its net outcome.

  10. Yes, ones journey may determine it’s net outcome, but to focus on the outcome would be to have the outcome determine ones journey.
    Ones live have several different outcomes depending on various circumstances. I do not plan to limit my living by focusing on one outcome which in the end may be of no benefit to myself or those around me.
    Suppose I were five years old and I had decided that I want to be an astronaut and I focused all my energy and resources into that goal. I may become an astronaut and all would be well. Or I may become an astronaut and decide that that wasn’t what I really wanted and that I had missed too many possibilities because I was too focused on becoming an astronaut. Or I may get in an accident an become a paraplegic rendering me unable to do what I wanted to do as an astronaut. I wouldn’t like it, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

  11. I do not believe an either / or response would suffice. People are far to complicated to be put in box A or B.
    I set goals some of which are perhaps seemingly unattainable. I do what I can to attain the goal or at least get as close as possible to the goal. I refuse to be so fixated on any goal that it becomes unalterable or allow the goal to take over my life completely. But I keep in mind that if one simply let’s things happen to them but puts forth no effort, it is entirely possible for nothing to be accomplished.
    A famous quote from Socrates states, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I believe we need to re-evaluate goals over time as well.

  12. this post makes me think of that cliche — blissfully ignorant.
    seriously though … i would say no. because inherently, i think knowledge of the date/time etc of my death would make it seem as though every moment of my existence really just converged on that one point in time. you know? sort of like when a teacher ‘teaches to the test.’
    i guess i’m saying it might make living feel less meaningful and purposeful knowing the exact moment when i would die. i can’t imagine living with the knowledge of one’s time of death and not having that knowledge govern the direction of one’s own life.
    and perhaps i’m being way too … wierd here, but then i also think along the lines of the eisenberg principle – anything is altered by simple by our observation of it. does the fact of my observing the exact time/date etc of my death not change it in some way?

  13. Hi velvet!
    Interesting argument but how do you reconcile what you write today with the inevitable fact that every day you are getting older and every day your end is nearer than your beginning.
    Do you just ignore the downfall of the mind as body as a natural part of the aging process?
    We may be able to delay the external effects of getting older but our innards do not lie.
    Even if you are in terrific health at 90 you cannot help but wonder every day about your end and about where you’ve been and to ponder how much time you have left… right?

  14. our aging process begins from the moment of birth. of course, at the beginning of our lives we call it growth and its monumental. absolutely staggering. but, with the passage of time it becomes less conspicuous. a tiny chiselling away at youth each day. and it seems like our minds eye only gains awareness with the a vast accumulation of this continuous infinitesimal decay/deterioration. that’s sort of how i see aging.
    and … i am acutely aware, just by virtue of my past nursing experience, that there are no guarantees. physical life can cease at any time, in any way. and i have seen alot. it humbled me. and i guess i don’t really focus on length or quantity. just quantity. and that sort of my preparing for the inevitability. i know that maybe does not make sense.
    so … i guess i prepare for aging and death not by purchasing all those lotions and potions etc that will keep me looking young. or not by getting my cards or my palm read to foretell my future. i mean, preparation for me does not involve wondering how much time i have left, etc. but, by acknowledging that the inevitability of aging and deterioration. and all of these associated behaviours. (maybe this describes the contrast of pro-active vs reactive?)
    and now this has made me think of that eisenberg priniciple. and so, awareness – observation and learning – of aging perhaps leads to making healthier lifestyle choices and gives one the feeling that one has done one’s best. that one acts, lives in the moment rather than tries to see the outcome.
    not sure if any of this answered the question you pose – which btw is a good point. but … this seems to be where my line of thinking has taken me.
    thank you … i like the stuff you make me think of thru your posts … ;D

  15. Hey velvet!
    I think you are unique.
    😀
    Most people in their 90s are either hospitalized or seeing a doctor on a regular basis — much more so than when they were 50. You cannot avoid that daily banging that your death is imminent even as your life lives in the balance.
    I have a friend who was 80 and his 88-year-old brother ran out of money and had to move into a less-clean nursing home. He asked his younger brother to push him in his wheelchair for a haircut.
    Then, the day before he was to be evicted from his nice nursing home, he died.
    Did he will himself to die? Yes. He said that was his plan. He said he’d live “just long enough to live well and use up all my money.”
    His brother buried him soon after knowing the death was planned, but not a suicide.
    He just willed himself to stop living. He gave up is fight against kidney cancer and just let the world take him.

  16. absolutely you are spot on. i have seen this. people can and do will themselves to die. and all too often when an elderly person is removed from their home to go to a nursing home, what you describe happens. in eastern cultures, the elder somehow taps into the life and death thing and just goes off into solitude to die alone. this is willing onself to die. and yes – we have the power to do this to ourselves.
    but — this brings me to a wonderful story that illustrates my eccentric view on death and aging. a 94 year old man with a appendicitis. it ruptured. his abdominal cavity raged with sepsis – infection. he had surgery. we got the big guns out – you know – the powerful drugs. he convalesced. rehabilitated. we all wondered. many of us said – nah. he’s too old. this’ll kill him. and … one never knows. really. this man – stubborn as ever, and that’s what kept him going – he recovered. fully. fully enough to go back home, where he lived on his own. with no homecare, etc. it took him quite a bit longer. but he regained his pre-surgical condition.
    and i don’t know why i’m telling you this. just … because it gives me hope. i value this dialogue with you here. this is a great site.
    enjoy your day!

  17. Love the story, velvet!
    You remind me of another friend. He was 86 and had surgery. He was “dead on the table.” The, for some reason, he came back to life. He saw everyone in the operating room crying. He asked them what was wrong and one of the nurses came up to him and said, “You were dead. We did everything we could to bring you back but we couldn’t. We were done. Death was being pronounced and then you awakened.”
    Is that the hand of God in action?
    Is it just an overwhelming will to live?
    Something else?
    He recovered and did well for several more years before his wife had a serious heart attack and he never really recovered from that before he died. He wife still lives.

  18. possibily its the sense that one is not finished on this earth yet that brings one back in such a situation. or … i could take the easy route and appeal the medical science. and, in this paradigm, given what you’ve told me, it’s possible, though a rarity, for a person to regain vital signs after flat lining. its common with children, mostly, and when their body temperatures have dropped siginificantly. such is the case in surgery – significant drop in body temperature to reduce metabolic demand during the procedure. and so … who know?

  19. Wild, velvet, thanks!
    It was an amazing story. He loved life. He loved his wife and his children. He would never leave willingly. He was a heavy smoker and drinker earlier in his life so his circulation may not have been great.
    He was having the “scraping” neck artery surgery that was so popular awhile back. I have several friends who had that “in vogue” surgery after getting an ultrasound on their neck to detect blockage — and every single one of them had a stroke after the surgery. What a mess!