Deadman's Point

r. muir’s



...or a note about suicide. Mine is not an act of despair or misguided desperation. Having once been a volunteer counselor at a Suicide Prevention Center I’ve been trained to recognize and respond to “cries for help.” Usually those contemplating suicide are faced with an immediate crisis for which there appears to be no acceptable resolution; this bleak conclusion usually is a mistake; everything is subject to change; many things change for the better. I, however, at age 63 have Stage Four Terminal Cancer. Since my diagnosis on April 13th, 2012, I’ve gotten no better; quite the contrary. Tumors have mindlessly multiplied. Symptoms have grown slowly worse. Electing not to undergo surgery, chemo, or radiation therapy (none of which was likely to cure my form of cancer or to extend my life expectancy), I have treated myself with palliative measures to manage the sometimes intense pain and to ease difficulties with swallowing, speaking, and breathing due to my primary base-of-tongue carcinoma. Predicted to live for nine months (give or take) by the ENT staff at SF General Hospital, I have survived for fifteen, and though the disease has inflicted a good deal of misery throughout that time span it has not prevented me from doing most of the things I’ve come to enjoy: writing novels topping that list. I finished Brick, my 15th novel, and I revised Navel of the World AN INDONESIAN ODYSSEY before reaching a level of discomfort that has led me to this cliff; “Deadman’s Point” the spot is aptly named, one reason for my choosing it. Another is that it affords me sufficient privacy to proceed unobserved—and hopefully uninterrupted. If, perchance, you are reading this without having discovered me dangling (I think I’ll be dangling) at rope’s end just yonder, please don’t haul me up if you detect the least bit of twitching. Your heroic rescue effort will only mean I’ve botched it. Spare me the embarrassment and yourself my displeasure. Mine is not a cry for help; mine is a fond farewell.

And speaking of fondness, let me hasten to assure the authorities that my wife played no part whatsoever in this termination. Nining was aware that I had decided to self-destruct, but she neither approved nor participated; hers was a loving acquiescence. The sole responsibility rests with me.

Why depart in solitude, you might well ask?

California Law being what it is, to assist with someone’s suicide (even passively) is to commit a criminal offense. Were I to invite an audience its members could be prosecuted. That’s one reason. Another is that one’s death is exclusively one’s own. I won’t be “crossing over,” or “ascending/descending,” or “reincarnating,” or undergoing any other “transition” from this world to the next. There is no “next.” We’re either fortunate enough to be alive or we’re nonexistent; it’s that simple. We weren’t (before we’re conceived); we are (while we’re extant); we’re not (once we’re defunct). Those of you who believe otherwise will find death disappointing… or would were disappointment a viable response. Once expired, however, responses forever cease… which frankly makes my choice a lot more difficult.

To know that death means nothingness is to contradict wishful thinking and wishful thinking is crucial when you’re numbered among the living, if for no other reason than it helps create meaning wherein pointlessness prevails. If each of us constantly dwelt upon our ultimate extinction the absurdity of life would surely prove oppressive. Better to pretend we’re immortal (or to presume, at least, longevity) than to fret about the fact we’re too-soon gone. We thrive on such illusions; without them we’re disabled.

So judge not my departure as some rash unnatural gesture, rather understand its impetus and respect it as a choice. Disease can pack quite a wallop; I’ve beaten mine to the punch.


r. muir

July __, 2013