Su Lum: Slumming
November 1, 2011
I’m not much of a partygoer, much less a party-giver, so I was as surprised as anyone else to find myself throwing a spaghetti dinner Death Party last week. At least it was in keeping with the spooky holiday.
An explanation is probably in order: Ever since a dear friend of mine recently killed herself by starving to death, an 18-day unspeakable process, I have been looking into – one could say taking a morbid interest in – various means of “self-deliverance.”
Let me say at the outset that neither I nor my guests are at all suicidal but, especially as we grow old, we begin to worry what’s going to happen to us, not fearing death itself but fear of being trapped for years in a life no longer worth living.
In the past, there was consolation in the idea of taking matters into your own hands. One could always take some pills, or hook up a hose in the garage. “When the time comes, I’ll just get out my derringer,” I used to say, as if I had a gun.
In reality it is much more difficult. Fatal medications are virtually off the market, doctors risk losing their careers if they even discuss the matter with patients, and even our gasoline fumes have been cleaned up to the point of taking that option out of the picture.
I had long ago read the book “Final Exit” by Derek Humphry, founder of the Hemlock Society, but had just discovered that the third edition (2010) was much more up to date when the subject came up at work.
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At this point I had ordered, but had not yet received, the revised book, but I told the group that there was a chapter about killing yourself with a helium balloon party kit. Their reaction, as was mine, was “WHAT?” Sucking on helium-filled balloons and talking like Donald Duck was something we knew about, but not this.
Shortly after that, the book arrived and was passed around. The chapter on self-deliverance by helium mentioned a DVD on the subject and the now-growing group all agreed I should order it.
The DVD is titled “Final Exit on DVD” ($20) and narrated by Humphry himself. It took its time arriving, so we were all champing at the bit. When it did finally get here, everyone wanted to watch it, and what better way than a private gathering.
Thus the spaghetti dinner Death Party evolved. Drinks first, then spaghetti and cake, then the DVD, which I waved around unopened to prove that I hadn’t taken a sneak peek.
There were 11 people in the room, with an age range of 20s to 80s. The DVD is 45 minutes long, with a fraction of that devoted to the helium technique (no one died during the production of this film). This is not a movie review or a “how to” column, but the attributes of the method are speed (unconscious in seconds, death in minutes), legality, indetectability (if secrecy is a priority – it need not be), taking your doctor off the hook and, above all, a peaceful exit. And it’s cheap.
Wisecracks seemed to come from the younger members of the group, and maybe it was the deafness of the elders that accounted for what looked like rapt attention. There wasn’t much of a postmortem – things to do, places to go, people to see, and the long end of the über sixth game of the World Series to watch.
I think we were all a little stunned, but the consensus seemed to be that it was certainly educational and, on the weirdness scale, rated high as Aspen parties go. My renter (40s) said he had never had as much fun at a party with no music.
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