Faye Girsh is the Founder and the Past President of the Hemlock Society of San Diego. She was the President of the National Hemlock Society (Defunct) and the World Federation of RTD Societies (Extant). Currently, she is on the Advisory Board of the Final Exit Network and the Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization. Here we talk about bucket lists.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Getting what we want out of life comes naturally clipped to the wants of others, some never even get what they need out of life, while most possible people never had one.
North Americans use the phrase “Bucket List” to refer to the wants out of life. A complete itemized inventory of ‘what one wants out of life.’ For those with terminal illnesses, these can become the most important parts of the final journey.
Do you note any consistencies in the bucket lists of individuals pursuing a rational suicide in the light of a terminal illness?
Faye Girsh: I don’t know if I “pursue” rational suicide. I may be content to die “naturally” or with good hospice care, or inhaling Nitrogen, if it comes to that. My “bucket list” includes a trip to Pakistan and fun, enriching things like that.
And, I guess I would add somewhere that I do not want a prolonged and difficult death and, especially, I do not want to lose my marbles with a stroke or one of those horrible dementias. But it’s easier to control my Pakistan trip (which isn’t too easy these days) than how my death will be.
I am glad to have a few options but mostly it’s out of my hands, except maybe to shorten the ending by my own hand or use some very restrictive legal means. I should be more of an optimist about that, having worked in this field for 30+ years but I mostly see death happening to people. If they pursue their bucket list vigorously enough what happens at the end will not be so bad.
Jacobsen: If you have seen some, what have been some of the more touching items on the list?
Girsh: I am lucky to have had love, two fulfilling careers (as a psychologist and then in the right to die movement), enough money to not worry about it, wonderful children (whom I hardly ever see), friends, and — my special enrichment — travel.
I have arranged to live in Japan, Egypt, China, London and visited, in some depth, about 150 countries. One reason to keep on living is to visit more places and learn their cultures. If I could magically learn Chinese and Arabic, life would be even better. I am 88 next month and have no complaints about how my life is going, or went, and am not ready to give it up yet.
Jacobsen: You’re in retirement now. What would you recommend people consider getting done while in young adulthood and in middle age to avoid some obvious regrets? When six feet under, the grass won’t care much for the silence, anyhow, or the ‘losses’.
Girsh: Everyone has a passion. I don’t regret not learning the cello or writing poetry but I am so grateful that I had the determination to travel. I might join the foreign service the next time around but, short of not having done that, I am happy with the decisions I made.
Being in the right to die movement for the past 30+ years has been stimulating and rewarding. Though the pace seemed glacial it is amazing to see the progress in this time — and to realize how much there is left to do and how many bad deaths there still are.
Courage and perseverance are qualities needed to move the needle. I am grateful for my colleagues around the world who have demonstrated those characteristics, especially Derek Humphry (founder of the Hemlock Society) and Jack Kevorkian, of whom I was a great admirer.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Faye.
Girsh: Thanks, Scott, for your thoughtful and provocative questions.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
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