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The Will to Die?

Old 12-17-18, 07:59 PM
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TiHabanero
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The Will to Die?

A friend of ours at age 70 willed himself to die. Never seen this before and am really surprised by it, and honestly don't understand how it is possible. His wife died this past summer. This fall he was up on a ladder clearing out the gutters and fell. Head hit the pavement and he blacked out. Came to in the hospital the same day, however was unresponsive to verbal input. He just stared off into nowhere. Brain function was 100%, body function at 100%. The body was ready for another 10 years, however his soul was not. He just lay there. After a week of this his daughter said to him that it was OK to let go. Within a few hours he was dead.

I am truly baffled by this as I did not know the mind had such control over the healthy body. I understand letting go with an unhealthy body, but this is very different. Have you heard of this before?
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Old 12-17-18, 08:08 PM
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I don’t know. The mind is more powerful than we realize I guess.
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Old 12-17-18, 08:15 PM
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The will die, or the will to live... ??? Two very different point of view...
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Old 12-18-18, 09:21 AM
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It was more likely just coincidence. 70 yrs old with a head injury and nonresponsive is not 100% functional.

You also hear a lot about people waiting until after a holiday or big occasion to die... I suspect confirmation bias.
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Old 12-18-18, 09:21 AM
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Or the daughter slipped him a lethal injection.

Or Russian troll-bots.

Last edited by wgscott; 12-18-18 at 10:33 AM.
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Old 12-18-18, 10:31 AM
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what's this plug? I need to charge my phone
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Old 12-18-18, 04:28 PM
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Hard to tell from your story whether it was the will to die or the fact that he fell off a ladder and hit his head.
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Old 12-18-18, 04:51 PM
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Brain injury is a huge thing in terms of its effect, the timing of those effects, and the feelings and/or knowledge. These are things that are causing those who are experts in treatment to reassess how it is and the timing.

I feel very sorry reading the thread and about the man dying. A fairly serious couple of factors are (a) extent of brain injury which can reduce to almost zero brain actions for weeks, and (b) actual competent of medical in understanding the issues. Of distress in what I read in the opening post was the brain function was 100%.
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Old 12-19-18, 02:01 PM
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I've seen it happen more than a few times over the course of my career. Maybe it's coincidence, but when it happens to someone who was otherwise reasonably healthy, you have to wonder.
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Old 12-19-18, 02:38 PM
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There is a real condition called Broken Heart syndrome. When you have been with someone a long time and built your world around them, and they die, you start to die in 'sympathy', for lack of a better word. You don't know how to live without them. Your body may be fine but your mind finds it hard to exist.

This is why many couples die within a short time of the other. It's crucial to help the survivor through and even then it may be too late.

It seems odd to some but love is strange as the song said.
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Old 12-19-18, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero View Post
He just lay there. After a week of this his daughter said to him that it was OK to let go. Within a few hours he was dead.
She likely realized that he was dying, and the "OK" was like comforting someone who already was on the way out.

Lots of things could go wrong with a fall off a ladder. Blood clots? Rhabdomyolysis? Head and brain injury? Nosocomial infections?

And, of course, there are things that people can do like stopping eating and drinking.
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Old 12-19-18, 05:29 PM
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It isn't mysterious. He was elderly, fell off a ladder and suffered shock, pain and serious injuries including a head injury. If they'd done a thorough autopsy they almost certainly would have discovered the physiological cause for his demise. More than likely brain injury, internal organ injury and, if he was in the hospital for longer than a few days, pneumonia and a systemic infection. That's what happens to people when they're immobilized in a hospital, nursing home or hospice setting for too long. But autopsies are rarely done because the medical profession already knows the most likely causes -- they were old, vulnerable and any significant shock to the system becomes life threatening as we age.

This stuff about aging, life and death have lost most mystery for me. I was the primary caregiver for three older family members until they died in their late 70s to late 80s. I worked in health care for years, including acute and chronic hemodialysis. And now I'm rapidly approaching my own dotage (well, 61).

People don't grieve to death or just lose the will to live and then die. They die from specific physiological causes. Often the physiological reasons are cumulative, occurring so gradually that nearby family and friends don't notice.

It usually goes something like this...

They're tired all the time. But they don't sleep soundly. Gradually this wears them down.

They bathe less often because they're so tired. Their bodies are more vulnerable to infection. Normal accumulation of bacteria waits for an opportunity -- broken skin from a bed sore, not rolling over enough in bed, a scrape from stumbling and falling becomes infected, etc.

They don't eat properly -- again, because they're tired. It gets harder to fix meals. Opening a can becomes impossible for someone with arthritic hands and atrophied muscles. Maybe they cut their finger on an "easy open" lid and shy away from those now. They resort to microwave meals that have too much sugar and salt. They eat too much junk food with sugar and carbs because they're hungry from not eating balanced meals. It spirals into borderline malnutrition, even if they're obese. And diabetes.

Sometimes they develop difficulty with swallowing. They can barely choke down the pills they take, whether prescription, non-prescription or supplements. Once they begin to gag on swallowing it tends to discourage taking meds and eating. Surgery can worsen this problem dramatically. It's common for the intubation process used for anesthesia and to maintain an airway to produce partial paralysis of the throat, with temporary or long term difficulty swallowing and talking. Happened to all three family members I cared for, and my mom never regained the ability to swallow food for the remaining year of her life after her surgery in 2017. Recently I experienced gagging and difficulty swallowing before surgery to remove a thyroid cancer that was crushing my throat.

Then they stop thinking clearly from poor diet and lack of exercise to keep oxygenated blood flowing to the brain. Immobility leads to lung congestion and eventually pneumonia.

Someone who starts out from a strong baseline -- younger, stronger, healthier -- might be able to rebound from something like falling off a ladder with head impact. But an older person may have only a week, a very crucial window of opportunity, for recovery. Every hour that passes is like a day or a week to someone younger and healthier, in terms of the probable outcome. After a few days of immobility they're dehydrated, malnourished even with a feeding tube, their blood chemistry goes awry, they may develop a UTI if they're internally catheterized, they become vulnerable to nosocomial infections (in-house infections) and a rapidly cascading decline.

I've never said to any of the three older families I cared for "It's okay to let go" or anything like that. It's not a moral issue, although I would have ethical concerns about something like that. I just wasn't ready for them to go and knew there is always some hope for recovery -- I'd seen all three rebound from previous serious health issues. But I doubt it would have made any difference one way or another. It almost certainly wouldn't have been comforting to my grandparents or mom -- all three were feisty and a bit cynical about the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross studies on death, dying and grieving. They weren't into acceptance or slipping away peacefully.

All three of those family members died from the complications of being old and vulnerable. They eventually accumulated respiratory distress, congestive heart failure, pneumonia, some degree of systemic infection, dehydration and malnutrition despite IVs and feeding tubes, and they drifted off very gradually over a period of days. There was no definitive moment, no epic last words, no "giving up the ghost" over grieving or depression.

It's physiological. There's always a cause. We just don't look for it because it's not cost effective to do thorough autopsies with toxicology studies for elderly folks when the probably cause is already apparent. And humans need some emotional, mental and intangible connection and closure. So we tend to attribute mundane physiological causes to something intangible.
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Old 12-20-18, 01:18 PM
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I have read enough testimonies from near death experiences to believe there is a will to live, and it provides a mental fortitude to overcome obstacles that normally result in death, and have always assumed this is nature at it finest.
Conversely I now believe there is a will to die. Having known two people that have attempted to commit suicide, and one that succeeded in doing so, I am certain there is a will to die, but I never gave it much thought until now.
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Old 12-20-18, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero View Post
his daughter said to him that it was OK to let go. Within a few hours he was dead
I've heard this before
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Old 12-21-18, 10:45 AM
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Can not one also include a WANT TO DIE from having a belief in the existence of "Heaven?" The promise of a wonderful gathering with deceased family members experiencing nothing but joy and happiness for all eternity instead of the troubles here on earth.
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Old 12-21-18, 01:11 PM
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I guess we don't know what he experienced when he was unconscious, and that could be the key.

He might have been close enough to death to experience seeing those that went before him. They very often, "see the light" and at the end of that light they see those people they knew. And none that I have read about, ever want to come back here after seeing the light, such is the beauty of it. Maybe he saw his wife, the saints , angels or yes, Jesus Christ Himself. There are numerous cases of people "crossing over", in other words being half alive and half deceased, thus seeing and even talking to these people. In many cases, they are told by these people, or spirits, that they should go back, because its not their time, or they should cross over all the way. Sometimes they are held back by the living and they hang on, but in this case, the daughter let him go and he did. There are many documented stories of people passing away within minutes or hours of being told to go. Or there are cases where they communicated with the deceased and were told by them that they would be with them by say the evening, and they indeed died that evening. Heavy stuff.

I think nearly all of us, especially believers, will come to the moment when we are ready to let go of this world and enter the next. Maybe that's what happened here.
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Old 12-21-18, 01:26 PM
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A friend of mine told me her grandmother really wanted to die. She was old and feeble and widowed, and in the mornings she would wake up and be mad that she was still alive.

Just a counterpoint example.
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Old 12-23-18, 06:32 AM
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I hope I don't seem skeptical to the point of cynicism, but I am a pragmatist. I see no evidence that the mere will to live extends life, nor that the loss of joy in life shortens life. By themselves the mere will alone has almost no provable, demonstrable, testable effect.

What matters is the action, the behavior that accompanies those feelings. If someone wants to die, or has becoming depressed enough to lose any joy or desire to live, they will *do things* that make it happen. They won't eat properly. They won't take their prescriptions or supplements properly. They won't keep medical appointments. They'll sabotage their health in many small ways that combine to become passive suicide. Or they'll become so tired, so sick, in some cases accompanied by dementia, that they can no longer take care of themselves well enough to at least maintain physical health, let alone improve. I've seen it many times, as a health care professional, as a home caregiver to elderly family, and observing many other families and friends. They don't will themselves to die. They do it through choices of actions or inactions.

And despite this I've seen miserable people who completely neglected their health continue for years, even decades. No will to live. They merely existed and continued like that for a long time.

Conversely I've known people who loved life, who still had that joy and desire to live, who deserved to live because they made the world a better place for people who knew them, and who took good care of themselves through diet, exercise, medical maintenance -- everything they're supposed to do. And they die anyway.

Happened to one of my local cycling friends this weekend. A great loss to the entire local cycling community. He'll be missed. Just dropped dead of a heart attack in the parking lot walking back to his car.

Happened to my dad, who had everything to live for, a loving wife, good kids, financial stability and security. Prostate cancer metastasized after he'd successfully fended it off for a decade. He was gone in a month. And despite the understandable fears men have about prostate cancer, it's generally considered *relatively* easier to treat successfully with a good long term prognosis.

As for "releasing" people by loved ones telling them it's "okay to go now," that's more humbug. The human autonomic system doesn't work that way. We can't will ourselves to stop breathing and die -- we'll just start breathing again after we pass out. Same with the heart. But an experienced hospice nurse and doctor learns to spot the telltale physical indicators of imminent death. And humans are pretty intuitive. It's likely the loved ones simply subconsciously recognized those telltale indicators of imminent death and believed there was some connection between "releasing" the dying loved one and the actual subsequent death. It's akin to predicting the death of someone falling off a tall building by saying "It's okay to go now" as the person passes the 10th floor.

I wasn't at my granddad's side when he died -- that happened a couple of hours after I'd arrived at my office and got the call from my grandmother. But I was at my grandmother's side 12 years later when she died. The at-home hospice nurse woke me -- I was in the next room -- to tell me grandmother wouldn't last much longer. I phoned my daughter and she arrived soon, about 30 minutes before grandmother actually died. The hospice nurse simply knew her job and knew the signs of imminent death.

My mom, who died in November, was a bit different. Over a couple of months she'd rebound a bit, then relapse, then rebound a bit less strongly, then relapse, over and over. It was a little more difficult for the hospice doctor and nurses to say anything other than "soon". At the time I was being treated for thyroid cancer and wasn't able to do in-home hospice, so mom was in a hospice facility a mile away. I was with her the night before she actually died and even then we could only say "soon". She actually died the morning while I was en route to my own medical appointment for anesthesia evaluation before surgery later in November.

Mom enjoyed life. I never told her "It's okay to go," because it wasn't okay. I wasn't ready and I know she wasn't ready. I was tempted to say "Hang on, you can come back from this." But nothing I could say would make any difference. I'd already told her that many times over the years as her health gradually declined and Alzheimer's gradually stole whatever made her who she had been.

And I'm not persuaded by anecdotes about seeing visions or having experiences they interpret at spiritual revelations and epiphanies. Including the notable story a few years ago that continues to circulate in which a doctor shared his near death experience and subsequent epiphany. Of all people a doctor should know that the human brain plays tricks on us when deprived of oxygen or otherwise compromised by shock, illness, etc. Heck, in my dreams I play piano beautifully. I can't play a lick in real life. I can sorta play guitar but I never dream about playing guitar. Always piano. It doesn't make it come true. Taking the action to get lessons and study and practice would make it true. Not wishful thinking or going into the light or hovering over a death bed or anything like that.

It's our actions that matter. What we do. If anything is God's will, it's that we do the things that make life worth living for ourselves and everyone around us.
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Old 12-23-18, 07:16 AM
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@canklecat, you’ve shared a lot. Thank you for sharing and thank you for your insights.

The take-away is that in the end we all die.

Willpower, though it has its place in motivating and powering people to accomplish great things, it cannot alter the fact that we will all die.

Last edited by eja_ bottecchia; 12-23-18 at 07:20 AM.
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Old 12-23-18, 07:57 AM
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It's human nature to romanticize death from falling off a ladder and suffering a traumatic brain injury.
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Old 12-23-18, 08:38 AM
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I don't consider 70 to be old or elderly. Reading this I keep thinking of Dylan Thomas's poem "Do not go gentle into that good night, Rage against the dying of the light..."

Last edited by ironwood; 12-23-18 at 11:20 AM. Reason: correction
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Old 12-23-18, 06:40 PM
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Maybe we're not meant to see the evidence @canklecat.
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