Dying with Dignity

What does dignity mean in today’s world? I believe dignity is adequately defined as “bearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect “. As I look back on my life from just five years ago, and before my deconversion from Christianity, I find solace in knowing I’ve made significant progress in becoming the man I want to be. A man who stands by his convictions and makes decisions based on his own internal moral compass, not the unassailable dogma of the Catholic church. The way that I define my life has changed since my deconversion, and I hope these new-found definitions are used some day at my eulogy. I sincerely hope my rotting corpse is not subjected to someone saying, “He was a religious man and supporter of the faith.” This would be a lie and a stain on the life I’m now trying very hard to nurture. This may sound crazy, but to many, I would be viewed a heretic. If a heretic is defined as not conforming to established attitudes, doctrines, or principles, then sign me up. I am a proud heretic. If I am not true to myself, and transparent in my beliefs, then I won’t be able to die with dignity.

When my children were of impressionable ages, I was, by all outward signs, a practicing Roman Catholic because I was raised in a Catholic family and this was the only practice I knew. The Catholic church was my Gateway Belief. I was taught from a very young age the Catholic church was the oldest religion on earth and all other religions were cheap imitations: no other religious beliefs mattered because the Catholic Church the original Christian church. I do not recall a single conversation with my parents about the ills of the Catholic church, the Spanish Inquisition, or any of the other things I now find repulsive about the Catholic church. When growing up Catholic, my mind was a perpetual roller coaster ride between venial and mortal sins. According to church doctrine, even thoughts can be sinful as well. If you are not in a state of “Grace” in the Catholic Church, it’s a sin to receive Communion. Any good Catholic knows the difference between these sins and what a big deal it is to “Not” be in a state of Grace. As an ex-Catholic, and with 20/20 hindsight, I can see clearly that this antiquated way of thinking no longer plays a role in my life and I’m happier and far more fulfilled because of my choice to “Just Say No” to religion. In my opinion, it’s nearly impossible to live up to the requirements of the Catholic church. I refuse to live my life in constant fear of a made-up sin structure which determines my fate. How can I die with dignity believing in this concept?

Here’s a handy dandy chart to help you avoid Catholic sinfulness.

This is where the idea of “Catholic Guilt” comes into the picture. My dad was a very religious and spiritual man who raised eight children and instilled in us the Catholic values he deemed appropriate to live fruitful and productive lives. He was uber-Catholic, as is my 96-year-old mother to this day.  Both attended church every day when I was growing up and my mother still does. I don’t resent them for indoctrinating me in the Catholic faith.  I do however, have the option of not repeating the cycle of dependency and delusion. It might surprise you to know, I haven’t visited my father’s grave since he died over 10 years ago. Does this make me a horrible person? In my opinion, it means I’m grounded in reality. I believe my dad is no longer in his human form and has left the Earth. There is nothing there to “visit”.

So, what is the takeaway from all this you may ask?

The first law of thermodynamics, also known as Law of Conservation of Energy, states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. However, in the case of humans, I have the hard belief that energy can be fully depleted. As I get older, I’m reminded of this every day as it’s getting harder and harder to maintain the energy to cope with life. Religious folks use this law to provide justification for a transcendence of one’s being to another plane. When I go, it will most likely be from exhaustion and a life well lived. Much like a battery, the energy within me will no longer be sufficient to run this thing called my body. I’m at complete peace with this idea. It is with confidence that I proceed until this time. Once my body is fully depleted of its energy, I have a firm belief my human energy and essence will live solely in the memories of those I leave behind.

When I die, I want my loved ones to remember how I felt about them and that they were important in my life. I want anyone I’ve ever wronged to know I’m truly sorry. I have a hard belief that my life is the only life I’ll ever live. I have a hard belief that my state after death will be what it was before I was born, i.e., nonexistence. And lastly, I want to exit Earth under my own terms.

My body will be handled in a certain way after death: likely in accordance with Catholic doctrine unless I specify otherwise. If there are any good body parts left, why shouldn’t I let them help others instead of rotting away? For me to die with dignity, I need to be dignified with all aspects of myself, including physical self. Now is the time for me to set plans in place for my demise. I don’t want any money spent on prepping my corpse for viewing, this seems utterly ridiculous to me. Why would I want beautiful flowers draping a lovely coffin?  Why would I want to be encased in cement and dropped in the ground for God’s supposed second coming? Instead, burn what’s left of me and discard the ashes back to the Earth. A recent article suggested there is a growing movement to compost the remains of humans like any other organic material.  This seems like a great idea to me as well. After my passing, I honestly won’t care whether my remains are cremated or simply composted: I’ll be dead no matter what.

When my body and mind finally give out one day from exhaustion and physical depletion, I want my actions to speak for themselves: “This man possessed both dignity and a keen sense of self-respect until the very end.” 

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