Finally: Death with Dignity in California

“Hi, Bill!”


“Heeeey, trouble!”

We’d just started eating dinner when a chorus of waiters and bartenders began calling out greetings to an elderly couple walking in.

If you squinted, you could still see the flyboy in the man’s lanky frame and flirtatious smile. And his date? The echoes of 1940s glamour from her days as a stewardess. (Yes, stewardess, with uniform heels, skirts and scarves in a local museum to prove it.)

“Our friends are here,” I said to Mr. T, and we both felt some relief that these colorful, nearly-90 regulars still made it to our neighborhood restaurant/bar to nurse margaritas. We’ve met them five or six times over the last few years.

As his “lady friend” (Bill’s term) chatted up a young couple nearby, Bill shared stories of his exploits during the tail end of World War II and subsequent world conflicts. He flew T-6 Texans and B-25s along other aircraft, and was shot down in a Douglas A-1 Skyraider over Laos. We talked engines and Reno Air Races, and how he recently sold his Aircoupe.

Photo used with permission.

I felt sad to hear about Bill hanging up his wings and how he lamented not having people to talk aviation with very often. But the saddest part of our conversation was when he confided that his lady friend suffers from dementia now. He spoke of squiring her around town to venues with music groups she likes, doing his best to keep her happy. But admitted he doesn’t see well at night and tries not to drive too far from home now. I imagined him shuttling between their two homes, one frail person trying to help another, and I felt awed but anxious.

On the way home, I made an offhand comment about wanting T to put a pillow over my face if I ever get advanced dementia. I’m terrified of losing my mind because I know it’s a devastating process for spouses and families. Then again “offhand” isn’t really accurate. Facing a terminal disease, I would much rather go out on my own terms as I discussed nearly a year ago in “I support Brittany Maynard and Death with Dignity.”

So, I’m truly happy to learn that California is the fifth state to adopt Death with Dignity legislation, making it legal for those with terminal illnesses to end their own lives under the care of a physician. I’m not saying it’s something people should do, but I’m thrilled that the option is now available.


I support Brittany Maynard and Death with Dignity
– Talking about death and dying: Whether you’re 22 or 82, make your end-of-life care decisions now
– If I should die tomorrow
– Contemplating suicide? Please think about your family and friends first. You’ll be sorely missed.
– A life cut short. Remembering my first love.
– Grief accumulated: Thoughts on secondary trauma, writing and resilience

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