My father was an unhappy man. He was aware of his unhappiness, but sadly, didn't ever wake up to the fact that he chose to continue to be unhappy. Worse, longevity ran in his family. So for almost his entire 85 years he was an observer of other peoples' successes, happiness, gratification, and love. He didn't understand that life is a team sport.
He was also a follower, not a leader. Probably stemming from a dysfunctional family, he didn't even know where to look for examples of happy, well-adjusted people. This was just the hand he was dealt, and he played it. So like a lot of kids in his neighborhood, he took up smoking at about 9 years old.
He smoked for 60 years of his life - got up to two packs a day until he got a scare about 20 years ago. It turned out to be bronchitis they said, but when it returned years later, doctors recommended another x-ray.
More than a month went by and no word from the doctor's office...so no news was good news for him. But a weird twist of fate proved to be fatal for him. It turned out that his x-ray results were sent to a man in Buffalo, NY with his exact name, including the same middle initial - seriously, what are the odds? No one from the physician's office ever followed up with him. He never followed up either - until my mom insisted that he call to find out the results.
By that time, a tumor had grown aggressively to the size of a softball. Terminal cancer they said, and no mention ever of the missing x-ray and lack of follow up. He went along with the prescribed treatment - beginning with radiation and the tumor appeared to shrink, but quickly grew back with a vengeance. Turns out cancer doesn't like radiation and it pisses it off.
So at 85, this just reinforced his "lot in life" mentality and he decided to forego any further treatment. Palliative care, jacked up on morphine until he deteriorated to nothing. For months, he couldn't eat or drink - and he seemed to be fine with this. He just wanted to control the pain. So more morphine until one day a fever to beat all fevers kicked in. The beginning of the end, the doctors said. That is one of the final stages before someone passes on. Within two days he was gone. Those last two days were oddly not as stressful as I thought they might be for us, his family. This was his choice - and the choices he made throughout his life brought him to this place. He consciously made decisions to neglect his health, to not live a healthy, active life, to begrudge happy people who were successful. This was the way he chose to end his life - not fighting. Passing passively.
We got a call at about 4:30 one morning. The nurse on duty suggested that we get to the nursing home because he wasn't going to last. We were there within 10 minutes. When I pulled into the parking lot, I could see the light in his room was lit, and I knew he was gone.
When we got to his room, he was cleaned and ready to be picked up by the mortician's service. They arrived a short time later - within the hour. We were asked if we needed more time alone - we did not. So, we were asked to leave the room. We were waiting for the elevator, and before we knew it, the mortician wheeled a large, blue, felt-like bag out of his room. He was off to the crematorium with no drama, no theatrics - just another day in the life of a mortician.
As his family, we were relieved that it was over. We accepted that he chose to live his life as a spectator rather than a participant. And he chose to end his life the same way - not going out with a fight - but passively. His passing was our relief as well. He took all of his pain and negativity with him. Life is much lighter now.