A 32-year-old man had fallen sixteen feet from a deer stand and crushed his C3, C4, C5 vertebrae. He was put on a breathing machine, but his brain was fine. When he was brought out of a medically induced coma, he communicated that he wanted the breathing tube removed, and did not want it reinserted, even if it meant he would die within hours.
Everything about this is horrible—the fall, the paralysis, the decision to die, and gradual death by asphyxiation.
The family and medical team acceded to his wish, pulled out the tube, and he died five hours later.
Those are the basic facts. But there are a few details that cushion the blow of this tragic event. One is that, before they removed the breathing tube, the family informed some friends of the decision, and 75 people came to spend time with him and say goodbye.
A common fear is that we would die alone. This man did not die alone. The story is getting better.
His sister reported, “I just remember him saying so many times that he loved us all and that he lived a great life. At one point he was saying, ‘I’m ready. I’m ready.’”
The story is getting even better.
One more thing. Though most of those 75 people could not fit into his hospital room, they were not deterred. They went to a waiting room. And prayed. Seventy-five people came, shared words of love, cried together, gave thanks together, let the family spend time with their dying son, brother and husband, and prayed this man and his family through the valley of the shadow of death.
Could you imagine a better way to die?
In this short news clip—a filler in the paper—we are first moved by a man’s tragedy, and then we are moved by his inestimable blessing.
“Injured Man Given his Choice,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, 6 Nov. 2013, sec. A6.