Brain Pickings

Choosing to Die: Sir Terry Pratchett Comes to Terms with His Death

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Befriending the Grim Reaper, or what Swiss sunshine has to do with the ultimate personal freedom.

In 2008, having just turned 62, beloved fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with a rare form of early onset Alzheimer’s. Three years later, he began the process to take his own life. Terry Pratchett: Choosing To Die is a powerful and fascinating film, in which Pratchett explores the cultural controversies and private paradoxes surrounding the issue of assisted suicide, which remains illegal in most countries. From the “small but imbalancing inconveniences” of the disease’s earlier stages to the loss of his ability to type to witnessing a terminally ill man peacefully choreograph his own last breath in Switzerland, Pratchett explores what it would be like to be helped to die, and what it would mean for a society to make assisted death a safe refuge for the dying.

What you’re about to watch, may not be easy, but I believe it’s important… Is it possible for someone like me, or like you, to arrange for themselves the death that they want?” ~ Terry Pratchett

When I am no longer able to write my books, I am not sure that I will want to go on living. I want to enjoy life for as long as I can squeeze the juice out of it — and then, I’d like to die. But I don’t quite know how, and I’m not quite sure when.

Snuff: A Novel of Discworld, Pratchett’s latest and possibly final novel, came out in October of 2011.

Complement with Joanna Macy on how Rilke can help us befriend our mortality.

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