Friday, June 10, 2011

1000 Ways to Die

A few weeks ago my son and I were discussing the best and worst ways to die. Strictly theoretical. Of course we've never quite gotten our heads around the suicides of two of his childhood friends a year ago, so the topic comes up now and then, sometimes prompted by things in the news.

In fact, that was how this topic came up -- local news channels had been talking about the trial of the Piedmont doctor who'd killed his two children and then, laughably, "tried" to off himself by drinking Windex. We agreed that a doctor would have more knowledge and means at his disposal than this half-assed method.

Referring to the two friends who hung themselves, I asked Alex, "How does someone even know how to tie the right kind of knot for hanging?" And he said, "Mom, the Internet."

Of course. You can find just about anything on the net, can't you?

So this led to our discussion of best and worst ways to remove oneself from the daily grind of earthly existence.

I thought pills, but it would have to be lots of them. He said, "Think of the horrible sick buzz you'd get first. Maybe you'd puke, and choke." I thought: car running in garage. I don't remember how he disputed that one; I still think it sounds easy. We agreed that any form of asphyxiation (drowning, smoke) is bad. Jumping off anything from very high up is bad, in my books, but he said if you fall backwards without looking it's OK.

Yesterday, I hit on the perfect one whilst watching a terribly sad documentary on the Irish potato famine and the dreadful trip one boatload of refugees endured trying to get to North America. The ship was sinking and it was the middle of winter. The captain and his top men escaped to a lifeboat, leaving most passengers (including many children) to perish in the frigid waters or on ice floes.

And, finally, I heard the words which gave me the answer to our debate: the best way to die is of hypothermia. After the cold, your body feels warm and you get sleepy. Off you drift, off you go.

Meanwhile, the potato famine story opened my eyes for the first time to another debate: act of God or genocide? Both, as it turns out, or as historians are proving. Ireland continued to export food staples while its poorest were starving, the thinking being that the poor

ate only potatoes, and couldn't be convinced to change their diet to survive. And many landlords were more than glad to be rid of their peasant tenants so that their land might be converted for more lucrative uses. Shocking, really. I plan to read up more on it.