Mark Harvey — When will we know?

This is a continuation of a discussion that was begun last week, and it has to do with death — maybe.

And it has to do with life — kinda.

It has to do with continuing with “life” in the face of — or fear of — Alzheimer’s, or anything that looks a lot like it. It has to do with wondering whether, if that’s the road we’re heading down, we shouldn’t just say, “I don’t think so” — and ending it.

If this kind of discussion is not your cup of tea then, by all means, go enjoy a cup of tea (or whatever) on a summer day, and drink in life.

But there are those among us who want and need to have, if not answers per se, the discussion.

Because we dread what we imagine that “life” would be like — for us, certainly — and for the ones we purport to love, who would be sentenced to caring for us. I ended last week’s column with:

So, we wonder. And we worry.

And we try to figure it out.

Well, we do try to figure it out! “It!” — neaning, how would that really go?

If it’s very important to me to end life before I descend too far down the path to dementia, dragging others with me, how would that work? So, we imagine we get a diagnosis: ALZHEIMER’S! Now what?

Apparently, I must be at least a little way down that path already, right? Or I wouldn’t even have gotten this diagnosis, right? How long do I have?

Truth? Nobody knows. There can be very well educated guesses, and some medications that can prolong/delay and things that can be done — a medical diagnosis is WELL WORTH THE DOING!

But, we imagine, the path is still “The Path” — and if I’ve decided that I’m going to be the one who decides when enough is enough, so when is enough, enough? Today? Well, I’m still functional — I’m still taking care of myself and I know who and where I am. And food still tastes good and I still love my home and I still love my family and that warm shower felt pretty darned good! So, maybe tomorrow.

Then, tomorrow will be today. Will I still feel the same way? Maybe, tomorrow? Then, tomorrow? And tomorrow? And …?

But if I can’t trust my own mind, how would I know? I CAN’T TRUST ME! My mind will trick me, or I’ll forget that this was oh-so-important to me! And pretty soon, I will have lost the “opportunity” because I won’t remember! I’ll forget to “end it!” Then, I’ll be there — exactly where I didn’t want to be.

So, does it have to be … today? Or, could I risk one more day of seeing the sun come up? Seeing that smile, touching that face, feeling that touch — that love. Just one more day?

And if we’re going to tell the ABSOLUTE truth, how would we do it? And, if we think we’ve figured that out, will we still be able to do it? I mean, honestly, will we be “competent” enough to pull it off, without screwing-it up and making everything worse for EVERYBODY?

I’m sorry. I know this is very hard for some of us, but the truth is the truth and many of us have thought these thoughts.

When? How? Today? How will I know? I wish there were a way to KNOW: Today is the “last day” that you’ll be able to do what you say you want to do, because TOMORROW you’re going to “lose it!” If there were just some way to KNOW!

And that’s the conundrum, we realize, because “not knowing” is the nature of the disease.

So, we feel lost, confused and afraid — and we just stop thinking about it.

OR, maybe somebody else can tell me? Maybe somebody else has figured this out and I just don’t know it! Maybe somebody else can tell me … when to kill myself.

I’m sorry, but that is what we’re talking about here, isn’t it? Suicide? Killing ourselves before something else kills us? Yes, it is.

You might want to let that sink in.

Why didn’t God just install an “OFF” button, that I could push or my love could push, and … poof! No more worries. No more me.

But there is no button, so we have to stop thinking about it — again.

Maybe somebody else has figured this out.

Mark Harvey is the director of Information and Assistance for Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He can be reached at or 532-0520 in Aberdeen, (360) 942-2177 in Raymond or (360) 642-3634. FACEBOOK: Olympic Area Agency on Aging-Information &Assistance.


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