Wednesday, March 30, 2011

On cripple rage and euthanasia

I am blessed. I am loved. I am happy.

But there are times in my mostly charmed life when a succession of events brought on by my paraplegia annoy me, then frustrate me, then anger me, then send me to the brink of despair. Maybe it's my feet swelling to the point I can barely tie my shoes. Maybe it's throwing myself from my bed to my wheelchair ... and missing. Maybe it's sending my chair to the shop for repairs for the third time in a year and wondering what in the world I'm doing wrong.

Whatever the causes, I'm lowered into something I've come to call "cripple rage." I despise it, because it involves my alternating between feeling sorry for myself and lashing out at those I love most and who love me unconditionally. Fortunately, these episodes never last long, and those who know me best understand if I tell them it's just cripple rage, that it wasn't me -- at least not the real me. And then, I'll have a moment like this, and I'll remember how blessed I truly am.

Here's the thing: as I grow older, I find my cripple rage striking a bit more frequently. I can sense that, even though it's happening at a glacial pace, I'm losing my fiercely held independence. It slips no more than a nanometer every day, to be sure. And not every day, at that. But it's happening. And every once in a while, I fear the time when my disability and my age combine to truly debilitate me. Will I still have the happy-go-lucky glint in my eyes that has forever defined me? Will I be a burden on those who have loved me and stood by me?

And then, abruptly, I am brought to face to face with my feelings on euthanasia. I have always been strongly opposed to it. As someone who has fought all my life to suck every bit of the marrow out of life , I could not fathom voluntarily ending it. I have viewed "death with dignity" as a cop-out. I have felt that if one had the right to end one's life because of physical suffering, why not have the freedom to end it because of emotional pain? In short, I thought suicide was suicide and tantamount to throwing the gift of life back into the face of the Creator.

("Oh crap," you're thinking. "Why doesn't he say something funny? This is awkward.")

So now, maybe you see where I'm going with this. Maybe my own encroaching mortality and the unique difficulties it could eventually pose have caused me to "review the situation," as Fagin sang. At the very least, I am admonished anew to have compassion toward those who feel differently than I on touchstones such as this.

Above all, my dear, dear ones, I want you not to worry. Even if it does happen a little more often than it once did, my cripple rage still only represents a tiny fraction of what is a beautiful life. And being able to talk about it openly, knowing my friends who read this will smile and nod sympathetically, only makes my blessed life even richer.

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