Death

Little more than a week ago, a nineteen-year-old committed suicide in Ketchikan, Alaska. He was the second suicide here in just a few months, but more than that, he was an upstanding young man, intelligent student, valedictorian of Kayhi's class of 2008, a guy with a future - and a friend. Who knows how many classes I had with him before he graduated last year - two, three, I don't know. We never talked all that much, but in all the time I spent around him, I never saw him cause a problem for anyone. If there were two simple things that anyone could see in him, they were that he was funny, and that he was nice. Nothing more.

I remember near the close of my junior year after he had found out he had to write a speech for graduation - much the same way I would the year after. I think I remember seeing him hand in his speech for review to Mrs. Bowlen - all handwritten. The story goes that he wrote it all totally at the last minute - and then, of course, his speaking at graduation was great. He was someone I never could have expected to have so short a life - and I never could have imagined he'd end it himself.

I think most people will have moments in their lives of deep despair - moments that they really have to pull themselves through. I know I've had one or two of those darkest moments, and although I couldn't say "I've seriously contemplated suicide," I don't find it unthinkable at all that people do at times have such thoughts. When you fall into that pit, though, you simply have to find your way out.

There are perhaps situations in which perhaps a hastened death may be the best way - when you know for certain the inevitability of mortality sits just around the corner, but you know that turning that corner will cause you unimaginably needless pain. Such tragedies are very rare, however, and in my writing on euthanasia previously I stated emphatically that it seems no standardized government policy making such action legal could make it rare enough to leave our society unscathed. Wishing for death is a feeling we all can experience, but for almost every one of us, it is something we can never fulfill without violating our very nature.

Last Wednesday I attended the memorial service for my parted schoolmate. It was a well-conducted and meaningful event, and it touched me very much. In a letter from his immediate family read aloud to those assembled there a hint of what might have been the ever-so-unsatisfactory cause of this tragedy. It referred to a serious problem the young man was having involving possible family embarrassment or something similar to that. I have no idea what such a problem might have been, but his family emphasized of course that the choice he made was the wrong one - one that has saddened everyone his life had touched and will forever change the lives of many - none more than his own.

In law we find the element of consent is present in many issues. When we consent to another taking a possession of ours, of course, their action is not theft. Without consent, sexual activity becomes assault - or rape. But when it comes to our very lives, the law and I are in agreement that consent has no part to play. When a person is not dying, when you know they have a future, it will always be unconscionable to end their life, even if they beg you to do it. It will always be murder. And when the perpetrator and victim are one in the same - that will always be an incomprehensible tragedy.

No matter what may happen to us after death, the futures of each and every human on this planet are invaluable. For all I know, I may live again a thousand times, reincarnated in a thousand different forms. But I will hedge my bets. I plan on making the most of my future. Cutting life short cuts your chances at everything. Death may be a mystery, but one thing about it is certain: Dying is the destruction of possibility, death its absence. Possibility is the essence of life.

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