The Flame

What makes a fire go out? You would imagine lack of fuel. And that might be so with actual fires, thought they do get doused now and again with a reversing wind or a trouncing rainstorm, and of course there are mixtures in canisters that do more effectively what a covering pan over a unwanted flame could accomplish.

 But those are not the fires which interest me at the moment. The spark of life, what makes that want to continue? What makes it want to go out? Here again there are certain easy answers: old age, pain, great loss, illness, a myriad of other conditions that come with the living process.

I happened on an article of a 104 year-old man celebrating his birthday. His birthday wish was that he could die. He seemed healthy, smiling, and in full-charge of his faculties; though yes I am making a grand list of assumptions from the short article on the matter. He was a scientist who was now planning to go to a country which allowed the ending of one’s life. His position was that he had lived too long, twenty years longer than he should in his estimation. So, for him at least, mid-eighties marked the termination point.

I have lived with folks who have stayed-on long past their true living points, dementia having set in, any interest in anything long gone, including any sense of who they were. I was happy for them when they finally made the transition, a transition long and hurt-full for them, that had nothing to do with what they might have wanted should their reasoning be intact.

Yet, it perplexes me to fathom where the breaking point comes between choosing life and being allowed to die. I have a view, but it is deeply rooted in my spiritual beliefs, and would not impart any objective value to such a decision.

Instead I offer something else. Life is about doing, learning, exploring. It is about eating, drinking, celebrating. It is about pain, losing, strife. It is about winning the beginning to each new day. Take away parts of this and the flame grows dimmer, to when all else is gone, and where even if food and water be in abundance as fuel, the flame will snuff itself out, thought the body continues on with its fuel consumption.