"Gymnopédie No.1" by Erik Satie
Donna, My Nefertiti, is made up of depths even the ocean cannot not fathom ... She wears Stars on her ears, and clothes herself in a Map of The Heavens.
These are the last thoughts that I will phrase and action. Another irrelevant
‘suicide’. Completely insignificant – like a beautiful abandoned raindrop
on a window sill.
I am sending you this letter individually. It is not a suicide letter. I am aware that it might be an uncomfortable and unsettling piece of notification. I make no apology for that and I am not sorry if my end of life choices make you confront your own. I might be the mirror you most hate to look into. Giving myself permission to die should not amount to any guilt on your part.
There is nothing you could have said or done to change my mind or my perspective. ‘Survivors guilt’, the shame and blame that compels yourselves to believe you could have done more, said more, been more, been more than more, and better than more. Nobody has ‘failed’ me. Nobody is in inadequate. You are all quite fine.
You are welcome to send it to anyone whom you think might find this thought
provoking, possibly even beneficial. It is not meant to change your worldview.
I offer it as an attempt to try to understand mine. It may spark a mature
conversation around the complexities of suicides, it's methods, characteristics,
triggers, types, genres, reasons and phenomena.
What I am most interested in is where rational suicides take off from where impulsive suicides begin. I am of the school of thought that believes /knows - that engaging in this in an adult manner does not glorify/normalise/romanticise/sanitise/trivialise/ ‘suicide’. It is like any taboo topic – swept under the carpet until tragedy strikes. If death and especially death by suicide is not addressed, it makes for a litany of consequences.
In a health culture, death is seen as a failure: and discussing it seems
to be admitting that. Suicide of course is thus the ultimate failure.
I have thought very carefully if sharing my last thoughts and insight is the wise and responsible thing to do. Yes it is. If I do not, then I am guilty of sweeping it under the carpet.
Some of you would like to know my final thoughts, because you have invested
and immersed yourself deeply into these, the subject at hand and many other
matters of the soul and mind for years now.
Some of you have stood with me until the end, and I have become aware that some are experiencing some sort of last minute spiritual or emotional stress/angst on my behalf – which is of course your own. I cannot comfort you without compromising the wisdom of my decision.
The gist of this letter is rational suicide, rational choice, my choice. It is morally fraught one. Most doctors and psychiatrists are of the opinion that anyone who dies by suicide has a mental illness. I therefore have to mention my mental health status because I face more prejudice than those who choose this path who do not have, as yet, such ‘issues’ and obstacles.
It has never defined me nor has it had a stranglehold on me. I stand defiant against the idea that because I have mental health ‘issues’ I am not mentally fit enough nor have the capacity to make the most important decision of my life. The draconian idea that anyone who entertains the mere thought of euthanasia, assisted death or any means of self-deliverance should be referred to a mental health specialist is a lot of crap.
I stopped allowing myself to hide behind, and be abused by others (no matter how well meaning) on the basis that I have a ‘mental illness’ a long time ago. Obviously, and annoyingly, I will have to write a compelling suicide note stating exactly this – irrational, bipolar, unstable, parents ‘suicide’ choices, "love affair" with psychiatrists for 3 decades, etc etc. Not difficult just truthful.
I am not the first canary down the mineshaft. Many have preceded me and many others will follow this route. They are not labelled ‘mentally ill’ (although if they were not successful in their attempt they would be whisked off to the psyche ward, be allotted a disorder as the main cause, and the dessert would inevitably be an anti-psychotic cocktail of interesting substances).
Many of my psychiatrists have worn me out, falling prey to the idea that
psychiatry and suicide prevention have a holy alliance, and thus must be
protected by any means whatsoever; no matter the human, financial, and
mental cost; the very thing they like to think they can assuage and ‘heal’.
It seems to me that most schools of thought in modern psychiatry have hijacked
all and any suicides as its exclusive domain.
Suicide is mostly very complex and psychiatry and clinical psychology are forever evolving in their understanding of this– like scientists with their stars. Most of my shrinks/therapists have however brought me great joy, fulfilment and balance, and it was an absolute pleasure to deal with them in the offices of ‘objectivity’. Much better than a foot massage, a facial or a prayer-.
I am fully aware of words that might be said about me. Words like: selfish/coward/weak/weak-willed/
broken spirit/broken/easy way out/suicide is not an option/only way out/depressed/given
up on life/given in/desperate/ get out of jail free card/cop out/free pass/
suicide is not an option/escape/loser/lost all hope (pick one, tick all).
These are controlling, ignorant, biased and abusive.
Self-deliverance defies any of this. I am exercising my right to die, my choice, my sacred decision.
I am not ‘committing suicide’ or ‘taking my (own) life’. I am not ’murdering’
or ‘harming’ myself. I am not ‘destroying’ myself.
I am dying - now -- by choice.
I am exercising the right that comes with that choice. This is not a choice that some might think demands urgent medical or frantic spiritual intervention. That offends me.
Actually, it outrages me. It is about end-of-life choices. Conscious choices.
As in life we make conscious choices, we can do so too with our death.
I am not spiritually challenged, mentally unstable or emotionally unbalanced.
I am not having an existential crisis of any kind nor am I vacillating between hope and despair.
I have neither capitulated, abdicated and most certainly have not succumbed or been defeated.
Where is the choice in that?
It is widely accepted that most suicides are ‘learned behaviour’. The learned doctors are right about this in some cases. In my case, not so.
I have thought extra carefully if I should share the next bit of information
in the interest of pursuing two points:
1.Two personal examples that the only choice determined rational people have is a grizzly and gruesome one.
2.There are far more people in the mental, medical, legal, clerical and philosophical fields that silently endorse rational suicide with all its complexities than we realise.
She gassed herself.
l want to stop this nonsense I hear all the time ---- that people who choose death by gas by car want to live, indications being desperate scratch marks on the door handles, loss of consciousness and their survival instinct kicks in . Yes, that is true of most cases. Not this one. There were no signs of struggle, no dramatic claw marks. Her car was not locked.
This was an act of determination, not desperation. These were very important facts for the cops. It was not a nice way to go.
I AM GOING TO SAY THIS AGAIN AND AGAIN …. This was an act of determination. It was not an act of desperation. It was so with my dad and it is now with me. It is so with thousands of others.
My father was a very disciplined man. He was Soldier. He suffered from
chronic diabetes but looked after himself well. He was an early riser with
a disciplined routine. Up at 6am, shower, and take the dog for a walk and
then breakfast. This particular morning, irrespective that it was New Year’s
Day, for some unknown peculiar reason he rose later than usual. He could
not find my mother.
He did think it odd that she would go anywhere without a note. Especially since, it was 1st of January. He got suspicious and went into the garage. She was still alive. His first instinct was not to call the paramedics but to sit with her until she died. She was far gone by now and if there was medical intervention she would be a vegetable.
This is something none of us wants and is a very important thing to consider if you do really want to terminate. He would also be going against her expressed wishes and acting against the very thing that made them take this decision 40 years prior.
He sat with her for the day, the night and the next morning. When he had composed himself, he phoned the police station.
A young cop arrived. He listened to my dad’s story and he said : ‘Mr Vos, please do not tell the detectives you found her alive and didn’t call the paramedics. They will be here in a short while. Let the autopsy determine her time of death.’
It is extremely unusual for a cop, especially a conservative one – no matter his personal views to find such compassion overriding the protocol his job dictates.
After my mom died, I moved back to Cape Town. Amongst many things I was a spiritual advisor (what is that?). One of my clients was a cop. Most cops burn out at about 40. He was reaching that point. I asked him why he needed my advice. It was about a suicide he could not really come to terms with.
I know that suicides are particularly hard for cops to deal with – for a myriad of reasons. He told me of a woman who had gassed herself but was not yet dead and the extraordinary love from a husband to his wife, respecting her end of life choices, despite that he could have been held straight away for murder.
This is what disturbed his ethical plateau. At what stage does or can compassion override a law he swore to uphold. He was talking about my parents. We became friends.
Three years after my mother exited my father would exit. He shot himself.
After careful planning for four months – I stress again – to ensure you die properly and responsibly takes a certain amount of planning. This is not only the method, time and place but also financial and practical matters that must be attended to so that there are no loose ends for loved ones to tie up. And believe me now that I am at this point I never realised there are so many ‘loose’ ends to tie up.
He exited at 04.20 at a police station. He was very considerate.
My cop friend was on duty and was the first responder.
I worked with a particular shrink for many many years. During that time, my father was planning his exit. It never occurred to me that I might be jeopardising his plans (based on patient/doctor confidentiality) by giving this information to this person or that it might ethically compromise my good doctor. This person was not ethically paralysed. This person knew very well that any forced psychiatric intervention on a rational man would simply delay his departure. (This person no longer resides in SA and has moved to a country where assisted dying is legal).
One of my more recent encounters with a mental health specialist, upon understanding my pragmatic approach to my end of life decision, said it quite bluntly:
‘Donna you must decide to fight or terminate.’
Boom! There you are.
No frills. Just this person and me.
This person’s support would of course not be a public one. For me however, it was good enough.
I think it is enough now and I hope you understand that the only options available to rational and determined people are gruesome and grisly ones, bar a few enlightened countries. I also hope that you realise that there are far more people in the medical and legal field that understand our decision.
I have therefore made my decision. And it has not been a difficult decision
It is based on sound mind with no cognitive decline; I am present. I believe I have enough insight into my life to make this decision. I am rational, conscious, conscientiousness, responsible, discerning, and my thinking is settled. It is well thought through and weighed up.
My judgment is not in any way impaired. I am well informed and my chosen time and way of death is well considered. It has been a consistent decision for a long time.
I have transcended ‘fear’ (what kak is that? – ‘man made’ impositions on my psyche), and freed myself from any judgment imposed upon me by any philosophy, ideology, theology, relative morality or medical analyses.
My soul is undeterred, my heart unfettered, my mind uncluttered.
I am not governed by anyone else’s rules nor do I ascribe to any. My moral compass is now no more than indulgences.
I have taken ‘one for the team’ my whole life, but this is now my sole and sacred decision and I am responsible to no one else but myself.
Nor are you responsible for me.
I do not wonder why some people have this extraordinary need, an urge,
almost a compulsion, even an addiction, no matter how sincere, righteous,
subtle enough to confuse even themselves, to inflict their ideas of life,
the law and the idea of an afterlife on me.
This is the foundation on which such people have fortified, sculpted, built and painted their beings, so easily threatened by someone like me.
There is no greater, sterner, fairer judge than me. I have judged myself.
I have liberated myself from any interpretation and limitations I may have
imposed upon myself or allowed you to impose on me, due to my own ignorance,
insecurities and need of rigid structure to guide me, no matter how subtle
I have had to get out of the boxing ring with ‘God’. When last I checked God was also not there. The referees - be that psychiatrists, priests, confidantes, teachers, caring friends, good Samaritans – were retrenched.
I understand that it is difficult for many of you to make peace with my choice because I am not yet chronically/hopelessly/terminally ill, nor am I ‘old’.
These two criteria seem to make it more acceptable and palatable when it comes to exercising the right to die.
You must leave your fears and your judgment at the foot of my altar. Should
you be sad, there is an anointing bowl.
Leave your tears there. Should you feel pity for me, you are unwelcome in my temple.
All death is sad. I think this sadness is only a mask, which we hide behind because of our own fear, grief, needs, prejudices, projections, paranoias, inability and unwillingness to face our mortality. For the most part anyway.
Thus, our own need to control others who defy these ideas.
Some may paint my decision and choice as tragic. That does not phase me. I know better.
My ‘love affair’ with self-deliverance began when my folks read me fairy
tales – as any good parent should (although these days I do not know what
a parent is supposed to do with all this social media business). Hans Christian
Andersons (HKA) ‘the little mermaid’ affected me profoundly.
I am not sharing this story with you as a meditation on suicide, or even as an alchemy, but rather for the many complex psycho-spiritual truths, it holds.
The ending of the story is what disturbs most people and Disney conveniently pillaged it. Life is of course not a fairy tale. The ‘they lived happily ever after’ is myth’. It is ‘they lived’. For those of you who have never read the original story in the context it is meant to be read in, I encourage you to do so. It has been impossible for me to read that story, repeatedly without crying.
Only recently did I give away my last, and original copy of the story – to a little girl who may never comprehend it in the way I do.
That may be a good thing, I do not know.
Years later, she would have to go to a ‘home.’ Such a nice euphemistic
phrase isn’t that. A ‘home’. It was a relatively upmarket home and at first,
she went to a bedsitter. I decorated it myself with a friend. Lovely we
thought. All her ‘things’ are here.
Overnight she had developed a fear of heights, lost all ability to understand pushing buttons in an elevator. (We can all understand why – I hope). Sadly, she was taken into frail care despite that she did not yet need it. She was to share with another elderly woman.
This person assaulted my gran. Granny was moved to another room where this roommate tormented her stealing her things. Sounds trivial maybe? It was not to her nor to me.
My gran was a peaceful person. Not a bone of aggression in her mind or in her in her body. She was placed in a general ward – the logic being she would be safer.
Shortly after this new arrangement, I received a terrifying phone call.
Granny had been badly assaulted by a night nurse, whilst sleeping. This
obviously became a big thing. It was dealt with swiftly and efficiently.
I considered putting her in a new home. I sought counsel and was advised
that this would not solve the problem.
Firstly, it would be too far from me, which would limit my ability to act immediately.
Secondly, elderly abuse is not specific to certain ‘homes’. Thirdly, granny would have to learn a whole new routine which was deemed detrimental to her. Lastly, because of all her traumatic experiences, it was necessary that personal preventative measures be implemented.
The little mermaid is willing to give up her life in the sea and her identity
as a mermaid to gain a human soul – so she could be with the prince she
had fallen in love with. She visited the sea witch who told her that in
exchange for her legs, the little mermaid would have to give her her tongue
and the little mermaid would never sing again.
Every step she walked would be as needles sticking into her dainty feet – and her earthly gift would be that of dance. The most important of all these conditions was that she would lose her human soul if the prince married another. The mermaid accepted these conditions.
The prince adored her. However, he could not marry her. He had fallen in love with the ‘temple maiden’ that found him unconscious on the shore – where the little mermaid had dragged him to safety after nearly drowning and hid behind a rock to see him to safety. The wedding preparations began.
Her sister mermaids were so distraught for the little mermaids distress
and fate they too visited the sea witch. In exchange for their beautiful
long hair, she would give them a knife to give the little mermaid with
which to kill the sleeping prince, thereby regaining her voice, her tail,
and the ability to live the 300-year lifespan of a mermaid – without a
human soul – and become foam on the sea.
The little mermaid took the knife and plunged it into her own heart. (In certain, incorrect version she threw the knife into the sea, jumped overboard, and drowned.) She would not kill the one she loved. She did not care if she became foam on the sea or if she were no longer to gain a human soul. She became foam on the sea. All ego gone.
the foam on the sea ending was not favoured when HKA wrote it. It was considered to ‘dark’ for kids and so society decided to invalidate the Zen of the foam on the sea. Foam on the sea was apparently bleak and tragic. It attempted the portrayal that only human souls go to ‘heaven’. Thus the little mermaid was granted a human soul by ‘air spirits’ for her noble deed in sacrificing herself. This ideology of heavenly realms minimised a spirituality unknown and feared. It is still the same today.
I entered into an uneasy relationship with foam on the sea and theological
choices. These two would soon clash and I would give in to ideology and
turn a cause into a crusade. ‘Foam on the sea’ became structured and regulated.
Existential questions of God and the universe became one of judgement,
always with punitive consequences, the relative rights and wrongs of a
myriad of religions, philosophies and bohemian spirituality’s.
And of course the rights and wrongs of ‘man’ made law. The means to now control a four year olds mind and thought processes had begun. It took many years and a few breakdowns along the way to rectify this. I am now free of all of this. I have once again found ‘God’ – Zen to be in, and of, the foam.
I am the foam.
I stopped paying attention to anyone or anything that tells me it is a
virtue to suffer, endure pain, humiliation, terrible sadness that can be
controlled, persecution, and ordeal, relentless loss that does come with
age, in order to die and be free.
Martyrdom was my thing for a while, but it lost its appeal when I realised it scores no brownie points in a different worldview. I see no heroism, nobility or honour in fighting with death to live when it is your time. I have no need to squeeze the last ounce of life out of me. For me it is utterly incomprehensible that one, in an extreme state of dereliction (money and privilege are irrelevant) would want to continue living like this. I do not intend to get there.
These fights, to my mind are simply the fearful - no matter how educated and enlightened these folk think they may be – clinging to the only thing they know – this life, this existence – despite the many who trumpet and offer afterlife beliefs and theories. The fear of death is only a concern of the living.
I stopped paying attention to anyone or anything that tells me it is a
virtue to suffer, endure pain, humiliation, terrible sadness that can be
controlled, persecution, and ordeal, relentless loss that does come with
age, in order to die and be free.
However, most folks do not think like me and it is their choice, desire
and right to suffer, whether they perceive it as such or not. It is not
mine. There will always be a few folks who do quite well considering age
related matters, just as there are those with hopeless and/or chronic illnesses
that do not intend to consider the thing I am going to do.
For those of you that imagine you will die peacefully, not languishing, not lonely, frightened or sad, surrounded by loved ones, sane, free from chronic pain (emotional, spiritual, financial, mental or physical), cared for by endless supplies of money, and ‘guardians’ to ensure you are not abused, - or others who somehow believe they will not meet a violent end, or others who fantasise about –‘I will die quickly’, live fast and die furiously, go out with a blast, and all that jazz…
I salute you. And I do hope that for you.
I for one will not be dependent on any ones goodwill, patience, kindness, tolerance or conscience.
Nor do I buy into the fantasy that money will safeguard your safety. Vulnerable people will always be fair game for abuse.
As much as I do not want to discuss my grandmother – because it is too
painful for me, I am compelled to. Based on the example and choice of my
parents, hers too was a choice, albeit an unconscious one, one decided
for her and endorsed by society. A society that deem such suffering normal,
acceptable, even good- ‘the right thing’. The human thing you know.
Granny died of old age at 94. She was wonderful, funny, and down to earth. Not nearly as ‘complex’ as my parents were – she herself would say. I could talk to her about anything – that of course translates into ‘boys’. She was practical. We had loads of fun together. After her fourth husband died (they all died tragically), she became an empty person.
They had moved to a retirement village after a very fulfilling life. They were very happy there and made many friends. After his death, however she was not interested in friends.
I wondered how it could be that they were all ‘old’ and yet did not get together for dinner parties.
With wisdom I came to the realization that age is not the criteria for friendship, or the motivator to make new memories.
Granny was given her own room – where she lived terrified until the day
she died. She had asked if she could come and live with me. It was a question
I have to block out of my memory. I was unable to assist with what was
fast becoming "special needs".
To this day, I weep. I do not weep for my parents.
They died well, on their own terms. They were not forced from their home, nor were they violated.
They did not die non-compos mentis, as seems the fate of many who are taken from their lives, more often than not suddenly, without out adequate bridging and preparation.
At 87 she contracted dementia. I did not understand this terrifying and vile disease. She did not have the disease in the way we commonly understand. There were no periods of lucidity and then confusion. There was no repetitive questions. She would walk, like a mad person, up and down in quite an aggressive manner. There was crazy in her eyes.
The nurses told me this is normal. NORMAL!!!! I joined an Alzheimer’s support group but we all felt hopeless. Those however with family and other resource support, were able to share the emotional, physical, financial and logistical responsibilities.
I did not have that support. It was only me. Along the road, I came to meet many ‘me’s’. A few of us have similar opinions.
The day I visited and found the nurses dragging her to her bath – as if
a goat to the slaughter – her frail legs almost sown together with age
and dementia related paralysis, that is the day I thanked my parents again
and again and again for not putting me through this.
That is the day that there would be absolutely no negotiating with me about the fact that I would make the choice they did. That is also the day I could no longer bear the pain. That is the day I felt shame. I felt shame for me – who could not do more for her. That is also the day I was so angered at our ‘civil’ society who espouse the virtues of old age, the ‘wisdom’ of our elders.
Well, I know differently.
I was with Granny the day before she died, battling with pneumonia, drowning
in her phlegm. At one point granny returned to her soul, and she looked
at me and said;’ Donna my throat is so sore’, and then returned to her
vacant self. It had been years since she had called my name.
Nothing we could do. ‘Nature’ had to run its course. I was phoned that night at 21h45 and the undertaker asked me if I wanted her clothes. I asked what she had on. ‘A nightie’ they said. ’Socks?’ I asked. ‘None’ they said’. ‘Blankets’ I asked ‘. ‘One’ they said.
It was the middle of winter. On countless occasions, I would visit in winter and she would have on only a nightie, no socks (despite I bought her many pairs) and one blanket.
And I would rave. And rage. And I watched…. I watched those that were compos mentis, obviously being better treated than those who were not. There are obvious reasons for this.
The nurses/care givers, themselves, most often work in thankless, and as with most, underpaid and overworked jobs.
Many are not skilled, nor do they have the disposition for it.
But I can’t leave our memory of granny on such a sad note – so I shall tell you a funny one. Its about the nighties.
Granny loved nighties – you know those glamourous ones we ordinary people can’t get nowadays. Satin and lace.
She had gravity defying boobs and never wore a bra. It was my 31st birthday and granny flew up to Johannesburg to celebrate it with me. She asked me what she should wear. I dared her to wear one of her nighties. And she did just that! She slayed it!
Growing up I became aware of some of my family’s genetic vulnerabilities.
As I matured, I would have to manage a few of my own.
At the beginning of last year some cousin’s came home to roost, and if medical prognosis is anything to go by I do not intend to stick around to host or entertain them.
They were destructive guests at the rest of my families table. I do not want to inflict these on my loved ones. I see no need, nor have any need to delay the inevitable.
I do not intend to fight with machines, doctors and broccoli.
Although I have always liked broccoli, I am a pragmatist. I am dying sooner as MYSELF, rather than a lessened "other".
This is how I choose to meet ‘God’. I will not trade my body or my mind. I would like to be my authentic self until the end.
That is the physical/medical. I could spend a long time explaining it all but I am not interested in justifying that.
I also do not wish to drain my financial resources, just because I am
unable to accept that I have a date with death. I do not have unlimited
Very few people have. I am leaving my financials to a cause that still has its life course to run. I will not be a burden and it is as simple as that.
I am however aware and supportive of those who choose to carry this burden even if they do not consider it one. It may be seen as duty, or honour bound, it does not matter. I have long ago moved beyond a point where we do not speak about the truths of the human and financial costs that debilitating (pending), hopeless illness, age or palliative care put on many of us.
I had this discussion with my parents when I was 19. It may disturb some people it does not me – or the myriads of folk like me or those that work in the ‘death industry’ and particularly those who are advocates of the Right to Die Societies.
I have never understood the need to fight against or prolong the inevitability
of human frailty. It saddens, depresses, and even angers me when I hear:
‘he/she has lost the ‘battle’ with….(cite illness)’. Or’ he/she is fighting’,
‘he/she is a fighter’, ‘he/she is not a quitter’’.
And when they die we hear: ‘he/she has lost the’ battle’ with … (cite illness) or ‘s/he has succumbed to his illness.’
The fragile hope placed on the incumbent’s recovery is often more devastating than the death itself. Too often, I see the living unintentionally punish and pressurising their dying by clinging onto them, forcing them to remain trapped in their painful bodies or emotional and mental distress, not freeing them and by doing so making the transition difficult for the dying.
It is an extraordinary burden to place on the dying, who very often must comfort the living. There is to me nothing brave about holding on, but everything about letting go – form both sides.
It is some sort of sham bravado, some sort of weird stubbornness against
the universe that will claim you.
We all have to make this journey.
>We need to be wise as to know when to fight and when to surrender.
Surrender and defeat are not the same. The prayer of serenity is a possible guideline:
‘God (add your own deity, science or ideas of higher consciousness) grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference’.
Whilst you may or may not find the above two reasons for my exiting (now) understandable, the third is controversial. But it is honest.
It is the chronic spiritual illness of our violent and angry planet.
It is too far gone for any meaningful intervention
on my part.
I am no longer in a position, nor have I the motivation, capacity, desire
or will to confront, combat and conquer the terrible, horrific pain, brutality,
cruelty, despair and fear that the overwhelming majority of people, animals
and other sentient beings live in the world do.
I also can no longer abide those who pray for them/us from their golden thrones. For my part, I have seen, experienced, comprehended, reflected and understood life, especially my life, well. It is all these things and much more that have contributed to my decision to exit now.
If anyone for one-second doubts that I have not seen, experienced, comprehended, enjoyed the great bounty, understood the majesty, and marvelled at the beauty of this planet, they are mistaken.
I ACTUALLY LIVED My Bucket List.
Furthermore, whilst it has been difficult for me to strike a balance between
the disproportionate disparities of these two opposing dimensions, I have
done quite well despite my predisposition to my sensitivities.
Therefore, in this regard, no one will interfere with my liberty and my autonomy in the matter most central to my life. I will not be blackmailed, jeopardised, tricked, ambushed or sabotaged by anyone who says, and it always is in sincerity, to me ‘it’s such wasted potential’, ‘you can still make such a difference’, ‘rise like the phoenix’. ‘It doesn’t have to be this way’.
I do not have things to ‘do’.
It is all done. In addition, I will not be pressurised into having a purpose already fulfilled.
This is my journey. The previous mentioned sentiments are part of your journey and your interpretation of mine. What you win in this equation I lose. I am simply a pilgrim, my own shepherd, and I will see where I go from here. I am on a speed train to I do not know where. Maybe it misses the station I do not know. It does not matter.
It is of no concern to my soul – or yours.
There are other reasons that are hastening my departure – I cannot commit
it to paper, mostly because then I would have to write a book. I have no
intention of being published posthumously.
A number of you have witnessed over the past three years in particular, my bestowing all my ‘worldly treasures’ upon you. Paintings, books, statues, clothes, jewellery – anything that I used to identify myself with. It has been an active, deliberate, gentle and conscious process.
One of you made me really laugh. In all sincerity, you asked me if I was going into an old age home.
Never! I will never sit in God’s waiting room. He is always late.
The physical de-cluttering was simply a metaphysical manifestation of my detaching from earthly things that have bound, shaped, controlled and enslaved me for so long. This has all been in preparation for the time that is right -now.
It is impossible for me to describe the liberation that has come with the deliberate act of de- identification. Part of this process was also becoming more and more uncomfortable with sharing a branch with the entitled enlightened. (I was one of them).
Therefore, I hopped off and found my own little twig to perch upon. There were no neighbours, just travellers.
I never got lonely.
I have acquired a border-controlled substance. Let me make it clear………
nobody has helped, assisted, aided, abetted, encouraged or enabled me, except my own instinct, privileges, presence of mind, self-determination, and bank account, which allows for a gentle and quick transition without hideous disfigurations.
This choice carries an extraordinary amount of years in jail, a fine exceeding the lotto, the humility of a trial and so much more.
This is an unacceptable risk for some, but it was a risk I was prepared to take and I have done so without compromising anyone. Of that, I am very proud. The journey has come with unfathomable challenges.
It is not easy to die in a planned, controlled, rational, responsible, respectful, peaceful, calm, comforting, safe and dignified way.
Anyone that thinks so is of diminished capacity.
It is obvious that I have spent a lot of time lately revisiting my parent’s
rationale, reasons and logic that took them to the place I now am at. Moments
before my dad exited, he said this to me: ‘daddy can’t protect you anymore.
Let me go’. I can tell you with complete honesty that ‘letting go’ is the
This has been a bit of a process for me.
To somehow find a way to let go. To realise I cannot control, help or guide from the grave. Then I realise that that is the ego talking.
None of us can protect each other when this time comes. We all share the human experience of birth and death.
There is nothing that differentiates us in the last moment before we close our eyes for the final time. At the end of our last breath, we all stand naked in front of truth. There are no symbols of faith or protections of oaths to hide behind. This to me is profoundly wonderful and liberating.
In that instant Dad and I looked each other in the eye and we both knew
where we stood with death, life, the universe and each other. Then proceeded
to nuke our Woolworths TV dinner, watch the soapie we loved and share a
bottle of expensive wine. Nothing more nothing less. No drama, pomp or
My greatest gripe right now is that I will not get to see an important ending in my favourite soapie. I mean who of you will be able to tell me about Paula and Altus forever inspirational love affair now in jeopardy, or the first Miss Hillside pageant ever where the first Trans woman has appeared and no one in our ordinary lounges knows how to deal with it.
For interest sake, in the above photo I was 32, mom was 54 and my dad 55. I have exited at 55 – I would have preferred 54 but so it is. She exited at 61 and him at 64. I despair when I hear people say of those who pass away at a ‘young’ age “he/she was taken before his/hers time’ Or, ‘His/her life has only just begun/cut short’ or ‘He/she had her whole life before her’.
Alternatively, ‘well, he/she lived to a ripe old age/had a good innings”. Death has no preferences. When it is time, it is time and anything less retards and stifles the process of grieving, healing and moving on.
Despite the fact that my dad was not a religious man he still had some
subconscious hangover and attachment to the poisonous age-old paranoiac,
nonsensical idea that he would go to ‘hell’ in whatever form or fashion.
He was prepared to go into ‘hell’ to find my mother. It saddened and sickened me. Shame on any of you who support and purport such an ideology, no matter how subtle. Karma is more insidious. The ‘coming back to ‘re-learn lessons’. There are no lessons my parents need to learn.
Whom does all the negative spirituality serve and benefit? Where is this useful or helpful? What is the purpose – at the end of one’s life to die with fear in his or her heart? Surely, those of us who consider ourselves more enlightened should be able to understand that sometimes we can cure, other times all we can do is offer relief, but surely, we should always be there to comfort?
All of this – fear, judgement and manipulation is not only spiritually flawed; it is a spiritual crime, a travesty of spiritual justice. Spiritual capital punishment will never be abolished.
I am exercising my right to die - with dignity - privileged to be able
to choose to die in the sanctity and comfort of my own home. I choose not
to die at Golgotha.
I do not have to. The finest death has already taken place there. It is a place of shame, blame, judgment, incredible cruelty and humiliation, perversion, sadism, mockery, brutality, ruthlessness, filth and debasement. There is no peace there.
I choose the tranquil garden of Gethsemane. I have accepted an invitation to walk alongside the enigmatic, ethereal, and most often misunderstood Mary Magdalen, almost invisible in the morning mists. A rediscovery of ‘Grace’.
I am exiting , surrounded by calming familiar noises, smells, my beloved snails, rain frogs, seagulls, the notorious Cape Town winter wind and fog, lilies and yellow daisies; with my duvet and pillow which I do so love, especially my pillow, and all the things some of us take for granted.
I count myself extraordinarily privileged.
I am. I really am.
Some might harbour anger and bitterness towards me despite my best efforts
to make peace with you, on this last leg of my human journey. I know that
in the final moments of my last conscious breath I will release myself
from any anger I might harbour against anyone or anything. And when the
time comes for your passing I hope you will do the same.
For the many of you that have gone above and beyond ‘duty’, enhanced my understanding of the human condition, encouraged me despite my bugger ups, inspired me to try to be more than I am, bandaged my knees when I have fallen, thank you.
That is all I can say to you. I have reached a wonderful point of no return and I am so grateful. The ultimate burden has lifted and there is tranquillity and serenity.
The greatest hero in the narrative of the longest, most difficult, and
perhaps the most exhilarating chapter of my life would be my Flight Lieutenant
My personal "Minion". An unassuming person with the most extraordinary capacity for love, kindness, compassion and ability to forgive. In addition, the bravest heart with extreme mental courage. A true soldier. My own Soldier. Nothing more, nothing less.
His job was to bring back the soldiers on his helicopter, dead or alive. They all went home together.
The soldiers listened for the sound of the choppers blades, and the sound could be heard...
"the Breath of Angels... Everywhere... for 1000 Yards".
These Angels would fetch them in the morning.
The night was too dark and dangerous.
It was the one image I could find on the internet, to show Donna what
"my office in the sky", looked like.
We never had many combat photographers back then, in Rhodesia. She loved it so much, she framed it.
No angels will fetch me in the morning. They do not have a mandate to
disturb the equilibrium of the seashore and the foam upon it.
I DO however, have One beautiful Soldier. My own to Trust, to complete this Circle.
My own Franco will Fetch Me in the Morning. My own Angel by any regard. Pure - Trustworthy.
I can hear the Breath of Angels!... Everywhere. For One Thousand Yards...
Fortune has smiled upon me.
I have my own Soldier to protect and hold me.
A battle-scarred Soldier. A single, lone Soldier".
"He answers to me... And me alone. The only one who fulfils our destiny".
My Franco achieves, in a heart-beat, that which no other men in my life were ever able.
"A take charge kind of guy!"
"I'm The One you did not count on".
Generally. Not the "surprise" any one wishes for.
I have my own dearest Soldier... and my darling personal, private Minion
to keep this production rolling.
He knows what I am about. He is my ground support, flight mission director and event recovery team - all rolled into one. A one-man crusade.
My own soldier, who loves me. And as he says: "Dead, or alive, we all come home together".
He will see me safely off. And he will fetch me home to the sea, where I have always lived.
I know I will not un-honored rest
The symbol of Time shall not reap
My still heart from my torn breast
While the myriad millions sleep
For I have my Soldier
Who will my Own Heart Keep
If I stop to think about my life, (which is now irritating me I must say)
would I have done things differently? Could and should I have? Have I failed
myself? My parents? Made different choices? Made more of a difference?
I do not know. It does not matter.
I learned a long time ago that what I had was enough. That I am/was enough. That realization has made me understand how extraordinarily privileged I have always been, and I am now using the advantages that come with those privileges to exercise my choice.
I am not sure about this ‘regret’ business. However, if I am obliged to have one it is that I did not learn to waltz - until late in life.
Except in my kitchen with my franco coaching me, while he makes us dinner.
my beautiful soldier is my personal chef and my in-house dance teacher.
I am unspeakably grateful to organisations and thousands of likeminded educated, capable, sane, rational, responsible, reasonable people, and most importantly compassionate people that understand and appreciate our individual need for self-deliverance, thereby empowering us by respecting our right to die at a time and place of our own choosing, with dignity.
I have never been so humbled in my life. No one can really appreciate his or her role and bravery. Unless you live the story, no one else can tell it for you. Any attempt at this gets lost in translation.
Now I am going to go to sleep. My mind has not been able to rest for many
many years, and it has disturbed my soul, which is actually a quiet and
peaceful one. Despite my best efforts to meditate, medicate, de-tox, rehab,
chant, dance, mantras, tantra, find the holy grail in supposed ‘spiritual
countries’, diet, fast, exercise, count the blades of grass in my garden
or the grains of sand on the beach, and so much more, in a ‘one size fits
all’ campaign for self-enlightenment and spiritual relief, I have reached
nirvana and satori on my own.
Without all of that. I think this is how it is supposed to be – on our own. Never mind how you get there.
I have diarised so many moments of laughter – each of you have made me laugh so much in my lifetime here and I have made you laugh and we have all laughed together. If I were able to (as has been the case in a few rare cases of self-deliverance) I would have a party.
In addition, you would be the guest of honour. Therefore, I am determined to die laughing.
If I do not I will certainly cry. And my tears will keep me earth bound.
Should my laughter memory box get stuck I have plenty of backup with Gru’s
minions, all things Tyler Perry ‘Medea’, and Vetkoekpaleis. I believe in
my whole heart that wherever I might be might assigned to I will find someone
that thinks Vetkoekpaleis is as funny as I do.
So please do not keep me earth bound by your tears. Death only has meaning for those left behind. Sadness requires the luxury of memory.
Remembrance requires sheer will.
I am simply a mermaid who turns into foam.
I live in the ocean and I arrive on the shore with every wave. My ashes will be scattered by my companion soldier, from a HUEY helicopter gunship over Blouberg Sea where I will join my dad and my best friends and loyal companions (Borg and Gremory), as foam.
And so the seasons have come and gone - Summer has been seduced by Autumn, (I have always been suspicious of that young Autumn boy), and the Winter sun has ascended. Soon the Moon will rise and cast her cold sheltering shadow over all of us. Dawn will quickly follow and the world will appear the same. It is as if I never existed. I never did. Foam on the seashore. That was the destiny I understood when I was four.
Now there is a great peace upon me and in my home, a great sense of achievement, deliverance, fulfilment, realization, release and relief - eternity has entered my time.
I am very grateful I did live – here. And that I met you.
Bye, bye my lovelies. My greatest wish/hope for you all is that you die well.
Donna Deneil Vos
Russel James Vos
Valerie Isabella Vos.
My Flight Lieutenant, and faithful Minion. My wonderful Franco, my Beautiful Soldier, who will Fetch me in the Morning.
Would you please lift your head in a great life-affirming hymn - sing
and dance with me, to ‘Do you love me’ – (the ‘dirty dancing’ version).
Franco's Note: Seriously? You gotta hand it to my shiny wife.
8200 words and then Dirty Dancing???
Aaahhh!! Donna Ragazza Mia.... Even while you are punching out, there's gotta be one last comment in Mirthful Glee...
Readers, I intentionally have left it up to you to cut 'paste the link into another browser window, so that you are not led of the reservation.
SEE: Donna Darkwolfs dust-off by Huey gunship over Blouberg Beach
By coincidence the Pilot is a friend of mine from way back in Zim. When I was Flight Lieutenant in the Army He was A Captain in the Air Force.
Another if these serendipitous coincidences surrounding Donna's dust-off. You'll discover...